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Alexandria Symphony presents ‘The Nutcracker’ (courtesy photo)

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s holiday program promises to bring an eclectic selection this weekend.

ASO will take the stage on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, followed by a 3 p.m. performance at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

The program includes selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” Duke Ellington’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and Mariah Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

“Our special guests include both BalletNova creating some Nutcracker magic on the lip of our stage on Saturday, and the fabulous non-binary soprano of Salvadoran heritage, Helena Colindres, a recent graduate of the Peabody Institute and a rising superstar,” said ASO Music Director James Ross.

Dancers with the BalletNOVA Center For Dance will perform pieces from The Nutcracker suit and soprano Helena Colindres will sing a Swedish carol, a selection from Handel’s Messiah and more.

“Helena can, does, and will sing anything! Beloved Lester Green will be our narrator for The Night Before Christmas in a new mashup with a theme from Harry Potter,” Ross said.

Tickets run $5 for kids 18 and under and up to $90 for adults.

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Garden portion of The Rectory set up as music venue during the pandemic in 2020. (via Classical Movements)

At the height of the pandemic, Classical Movements held weekly open-air concerts with world-renowned musicians in their “Secret Garden” in Old Town North.

Business is slowly returning to its hectic pace for Neeta Helms, the organization’s founder, as she and her staff organize trips around the world for some of the biggest classical musical acts in the business. The touring company has worked in 147 countries, and produces more than 50 annual musical tours, as well as hundreds of concerts.

“For us, this garden became the sign of spring and hope,” Helms said.

While the weekly concerts are no more, there are still monthly performances at the Secret Garden.

“It was never about the money,” Helms said of the Secret Garden concerts. “For 50 distanced people at $40 a person, that’s $2,000, while we have the concert master of the Philadelphia Orchestra, concert mistress of the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the principal and second violin, the principal viola and principal clarinet play with us. If musicians of that caliber, who play in the greatest concert halls in the world and the Kennedy Center and are back playing every week to play in our garden, that should tell everybody something.”

Classical Movements, in June 2020, was one of the first venues in the region to open their doors for live performances. Between June and December 2020 alone, they hosted 40 socially distanced one-hour-long concerts, with a few noise complaints from neighbors.

“The first violinist in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, before he played, said that he hadn’t played to a live audience for 15 months,” said Johan van Zyl, the company’s senior vice president. “As he was saying that, I was sitting on the side of the stage in the back and I could see his lip quivering. He was so emotional about the fact that he was playing to a live audience. That’s the moment for me where I thought we’re doing the right thing.”

The venue has also become a popular spot for weddings.

“What shocked us about Covid was that the music was singled out as one of the most dangerous things to do,” Helms said. “Choirs were identified right from the get-go, and performing music became this lethal activity. For us, we had 40-or-so tours all over the world that we had to cancel. We had to try to figure out how much money we could get back and give to our clients, which is a huge amount of money. Really what was at stake was millions of dollars.”

Helms said that the travel industry is at the whim and fancy of plagues, weather and international relations.

“We were affected by SARS and had to put tours on hold in China, or there was MERS, or there was a volcano erupting in Chile and we had to bus people 18 hours to get to a performance in Argentina,” she said. “On September 11, 2001, we had the New York Philharmonic itself flying back home from a residency in Braunschweig, Germany, and all flights were grounded until we could get everyone home four days later.”

Bucking trends musically is commonplace for Helms, whose first touring concert in Moscow’s Red Square in 1992, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, was attended by 100,000 people. The event was conducted by Russian defector Mstislav Rostropovich and featured the National Symphony Orchestra and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

“For us in Red Square (in 1992), what was marvelous was being mobbed by people,” she said. “It was like touring with Elvis or the Beatles, because anyone in this Russia who met us gave us flowers and notes, and thanked us for the miracle of actually having music on Red Square, as opposed to demonstrations with tanks. By presenting music, it was a surprisingly revolutionary event, in hindsight.”

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What if all those ghosts were really a ploy by Tiny Tim to get Ebenezer Scrooge to let his dad off work on Christmas day?

That’s the plot of “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” by Ken and Jack Ludwig. The Little Theatre of Alexandria (600 Wolfe Street) will perform the play from Dec. 3 to Dec. 17 instead of the traditional “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

“We’ve been doing ‘A Christmas Carol’ every year for decades,” LTA Board of Governors Chair Russell Wyland told ALXnow. “We’ve been asking how often we can go to the well, and we wondered if people wanted a different take. We didn’t stray too far from the story, but did something a little different.”

There are no distancing requirements, although audience members still have to wear face masks throughout performances. The show is an hour long without intermission.

Tickets cost $23 for all seats and ages.

Via Facebook

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(Updated 1/6/23) Last week, Alexandria city staff pulled back the curtain on the city’s progress on turning Old Town North into an arts district.

The goal is to trade density in Old Town North for arts uses — mirroring earlier arrangements between the city and developers for affordable housing uses.

At an “Old Town North Arts and Cultural Uses” meeting last week, Director of Planning and Zoning Karl Moritz offered an overview of sites in Old Town North making use of that arts density.

Two have already been constructed, two have had their development special use permits approved, the former power plant site has had a coordinated development district (CDD) approved, and a sixth location is under review.

  • The Muse (constructed) – 5,900 square feet
  • The Venue at Crown Plaza (constructed) – 7,300 square feet
  • TideLock (DSUP approved) – 5,000 square feet
  • 901 N Pitt (DSUP approved) – 6,445 square feet
  • Hilco (CDD approved) – 30,000 square feet
  • Montgomery Center (in review) – 20,000 square feet

The Muse (1201 N. Royal Street) is set to house The Art League along with other arts programs. Theater company MetroStage is working on opening at The Venue ( 925 N. Fairfax Street).

Musical instruction program Levine Music was approved earlier this year as the tenant at the TideLock development ( 1033, 1055 and 1111 N Fairfax Street). 901 N. Pitt Street, meanwhile, will be the new home of CityDance.

The public at the meeting was surveyed on what other arts uses they’d like to see in Old Town North. Suggestions included a piano bar, a jazz club and an opera house, but one of the most popular suggestions was a Governor’s School for the Arts — a type of public arts program. There are Governor’s Schools in other states, like Kentucky and South Carolina, and several across Virginia.

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The kitschy I Love You sign in Waterfront Park is no more, replaced with a holiday tree, but the big news this week is the announcement of a new art project that will replace the tree early next year.

A new project by New York City-based artist Nina Cooke John called “Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” will be installed in March 2023 and will remain in place until November.

The project features steel beams meant to evoke the series of 18th-century ships discovered in Old Town excavations between 2015-2018.

“Viewed from the park, visitors stand on the outside of the hull with a view onto one side of history,” said the City’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “Once inside, a fuller story is revealed. Visitors move in, through and between the installation reading the text on the ground and touching the text on the steel. Light traces the profiles, reinforcing their form and allowing for a different experience at night.”

Along with the beams there will be pained images of herring, coconuts, gin, a woman named “Jane Tailor” featured in a ship manifest, and other notable parts of the city’s nautical history.

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Art On The Avenue in Del Ray (file photo)

A 60% chance of rain might dampen this Saturday’s Art On The Avenue festival in Del Ray, but at least it’s not a hurricane.

Art On The Avenue was supposed to be held on Saturday, October 1, but was postponed due as the remnants of Hurricane Ian battered the East Coast. It was a good decision, since the entire weekend ended up being cold, wet and dreary in Alexandria.

“Postponing an event like this is very difficult,” said festival organizer Pat Miller. “We lost a few artists and we gained a few artists. The food is the same, some of the programming is a little different, but none of the musical acts dropped out.”

Art On The Avenue is historically the biggest day of the year in Del Ray, drawing tens of thousands to Mount Vernon Avenue to check out art from more than 350 artists.

Postponing the event also put some local restaurants in a bind. Del Ray Pizzeria made too much dough, and later sold out after making an appeal to its customers.

The event will not likely be postponed again, in the event of bad weather, Miller said.

“It gets to bee too cold,” Miller said. “That’s tough for a lot of artists and it’s tough for their art.”

The 2020 festival was virtual due to the pandemic, and last year’s event had perfect weather, but an unforced power outage prompted businesses along Mount Vernon Avenue to be shut down.

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(Updated at 10:35 p.m. on 11/22/22) The fifth art installation at Waterfront Park will commemorate the wrecked 18th century ships discovered at the sites of the Hotel Indigo and Robinson Terminal South.

“Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” will be erected in mid-to-late March 2023 and be up until November. The work, by New York City-based architect and artist Nina Cooke John, reveals a steel abstract of a ship’s hull, meant to illustrate the city’s historical depths.

“Viewed from the park, visitors stand on the outside of the hull with a view onto one side of history,” said the City’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “Once inside, a fuller story is revealed. Visitors move in, through and between the installation reading the text on the ground and touching the text on the steel. Light traces the profiles, reinforcing their form and allowing for a different experience at night.”

The installation was chosen by a task force of Alexandria Arts Commission members, including Claire Mouledoux, senior vice president of marketing for Visit Alexandria; Clint Mansell, director of the Principle Gallery (208 King Street); and Nicole McGrew, the owner of Threadleaf & Company.

According to the City:

Like an archaeological dig, the site is layered, with portions of different information coming through.  The sea of blue on the plaza is painted on the outer surface of the pieces.  The orange of the inner surface extends to its shadows on the ground.  Herring, coconuts and gin are painted on the ground alongside Jane Tailor, female, 5′-2″ in text pulled from ships manifests.  Also listed are two boxes of oranges and Admonia Jackson. The text is also embedded in the underside of the steel.

Cooke John has also been chosen to design the new Harriet Tubman Monument in Newark, New Jersey.

Goodbye, “I Love You”

Fabian and Angie Chavarria at the ‘I Love You’ art installation at Waterfront park on Nov. 6, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)

In the meantime, the “I Love You” installation was taken down on Sunday — after a farewell party hosted by the Department. The neon “I Love You” sign by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R STUDIOS opened in March, and was a favorite for selfie-takers.

A holiday tree will be put in its place, and lit up on Nov. 19. That’s in addition to the big holiday tree lighting just a few blocks away at Market Square in front of City Hall on that same date.

“I Love You” had issues with light bulb outages over the summer, and the bulbs — individually hand-crafted glass tubes containing neon gas — were reinforced by a repair crew. But in its final weeks, the bulb in the “O” in the sign’s “You” was blown out after someone tried to throw a football through it.

“So, we finally figured out a way to keep those tubes from snapping, and then somebody tried to throw a football through the ‘O’ in the ‘YOU’,” said Diane Ruggiero, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “If this artwork weren’t temporary then it would be designed a little differently, and that’s what it is — temporary.”

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Janis Joplin in Alexandria psychedelic rock-and-roll poster exhibit (image courtesy Gallery at Canal Center)

A local art exhibit showcasing psychedelic art throughout rock-and-roll history will be free this weekend and includes a unique piece of local music history.

The Psychedelic Art Exchange’s Rock & Roll Poster Show is on exhibit at Gallery at Canal Center (11 Canal Center), a new art gallery that opened earlier this month. The gallery said in a release that entry will be free this weekend.

“View the original concert poster art that defined a generation, including legendary works from the beginning of the revolution in San Francisco to modern era,” the gallery said in the release. “On display will be an incredibly rare local artifact — the 1968 of Janis Joplin/Big Brother Alexandria Arena Roller Rink poster.”

For the exhibit’s upcoming opening weekend, admission will be free. According to the release, the hours this weekend are:

  • Friday, Oct. 21, 4-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 22, Noon-8 p.m.
  • Sunday Oct. 23, 2-8 p.m.

“These pop culture posters are the intersection of fine art and collectible, illustrating the history of Rock Music — the original American art form,” the gallery said.

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More art is in store for Old Town North.

On October 15 (Saturday), a number of sidewalks and parking lots will be brightened by work from more than a dozen chalk artists.

October is National Arts & Humanities Month, and last weekend  the Old Town Arts Alliance celebrated with the opening of an art gallery in the new Old Town North Arts District.

“This is the first major art event for the Arts District,” according to Agnes Artemel, President of the Old Town North Alliance.  “We are looking forward to this event and bringing more art to OTN.”  Members of the Alliance are actively participating in the Walk by providing space in which the artists can work, including Canal Center. and businesses like St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub and Made in ALX.”

The event is free and open to the public.

Via Alexandria Arts Alliance

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A new art gallery in Old Town North will celebrate its grand opening with an event showcasing a number of Alexandria artists.

Starting on October 8 (Saturday), the Old Town Arts Alliance will celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month at the Canal Center Plaza (44 Canal Center) in the new Old Town North Arts District.

The Party For The Arts will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., and will feature performances on multiple outdoor stages and a special art exhibit at the new gallery.

“The goals of this event are to provide a collaborative platform to promote the city’s arts and culture sector as it recovers from the pandemic, and to highlight the arts’ power to inspire, spark change, and contribute to a vibrant, thriving and inclusive city,” according to an Old Town Arts Alliance release.

Participants at the event include:

  • Yellow Door Concert Series Sextet
  • Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic
  • Principle Gallery
  • Kyo Gallery
  • Local Motion Dance Project
  • The Art League
  • The Athenaeum
  • Galactic Panther Gallery
  • Alexandria Harmonizers
  • Torpedo Factory Art Center
  • MetroStage
  • Arts On The Horizon
  • Alexandria Citizens Band
  • Del Ray Artisans
  • Artspire
  • Upcycle Creative Reuse Center
  • Heard Arts Program

Courtesy image

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