Spotlight on the 2023-2024 Cultural Season

Mark your calendars and prepare to be blown away by a windfall of cultural events in the coming months

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The Indian River Symphonic Association will host the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields March 19, 2024. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega
The Indian River Symphonic Association will host the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields March 19, 2024. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Setting the Tone

Under the baton of David Amado, the Atlantic Classical Orchestra performs in both Vero Beach and Stuart. This season’s Masterworks series will include quite an assortment: “Wild West,” “Paris Jazz,” “Latin Passions,” and “The Classics.” The ACO also works in concert with Vero Beach Museum of Art to present the three-part Chamber Music Series.

The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra’s 15th anniversary season is well underway, but seven more performances are still slated for Vero Beach. SCSO’s Symphony for Everyone program allows for flexible pricing, broadening access to orchestral music.

In addition to hosting the Brevard Symphony Orchestra for two performances, the Indian River Symphonic Association will welcome the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Palm Beach Symphony, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra this season.

In recognition of Indian River Symphonic Association’s 30th anniversary in 2024, we asked Susan Smith
Susan Smith

Q&A

In recognition of Indian River Symphonic Association’s 30th anniversary in 2024, we asked Susan Smith, who has been involved with IRSA for nearly 20 years and is currently serving her second stint as board president, for some insights about this local cultural cornerstone.

What motivated you to get involved with IRSA?

After a 30-year career in music education, I moved to Vero Beach and, at some point, joined the Choral Society. My husband and I attended an IRSA concert that featured the Moscow Symphony. During the program, I remember thinking how gratifying it must be to be a member of the board of directors. Then I noticed that the person who sat next to me in the soprano section of the Choral Society was a member of the IRSA board. From that night to the following rehearsal, sending in my résumé and going to an interview led to so much more than I could have ever imagined for the next chapter of my life here in Vero Beach!

Who decides which orchestras are invited, and what criteria are used?

The first consideration is what will excite our audience. We prefer to host an orchestra that hasn’t appeared here before, especially if the soloist or conductor is well known. Obviously, cost is an ever-increasing factor that always has a major part in the overall process. We often are asked if we will ever have a certain orchestra perform. I’m happy to say that in 2025, after years of hearing that question about one orchestra in particular, the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’!

How is the program selected for each performance?

It’s actually fairly simple. The orchestras send several lists of selections for our concert committee to review. From there, the choice is made, first being certain there will be no duplications among the other performances, and second, that the piece hasn’t been performed for at least the past four years. Sometimes the committee can request a particular piece, if they know that it is part of the orchestra’s repertoire.

What is the most thrilling part of the symphony experience for you?

My personal gratifying experience has been hearing new soloists, especially those who are making their debut in the United States. They appear to be so mature and serious when they come out to the stage, and then when I go back to meet them during the intermission, they are bursting at the seams, full of energy and grinning from ear to ear, like the children they were not that long ago! Very often they will appear again with a different orchestra, more sedate the next time, as their career continues to evolve.

What do you think the next 30 years might have in store for IRSA?

Accepting the fact that we have no crystal ball, we are confident that we have the potential to endure for the next 30 years and continue showcasing major orchestras and historical works of significance. As we bring in younger board members with various talents and experiences, we will be able to expand our repertoire to include the evolving works and talents of new composers and groups. We do this to educate and inspire our community and our student base with music that should be not only heard but seen as well, for nothing replaces the experience of a live performance.

Last year, Vero Beach Opera staged L’Elisir d’Amore. Photo by JPR Images
Last year, Vero Beach Opera staged L’Elisir d’Amore. Photo by JPR Images

Bringing the Singing

The Vero Beach Opera looks forward to a robust season that will see audiences enjoying Mozart’s Don Giovanni; a concert titled “Best of Broadway & Opera;” “Scenes from Zarzuelas,” featuring a distinctly Spanish genre; and the popular Rising Stars vocal competition.

The Vero Beach Choral Society is planning two exciting performances, beginning with a holiday concert featuring Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata and much more. In April, the group will be joined by the Vero Beach High School Choir, the Treasure Coast Wind Ensemble, and the First Presbyterian Youth String Orchestra to present The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins.

Ballet Vero Beach
Ballet Vero Beach

Head to Toe

In addition to its beloved Nutcracker on the Indian River, Ballet Vero Beach will stage original works as well as selections from celebrated choreographers such as George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, and Martha Graham.

Riverside Theatre presents four musicals this season as well
Riverside Theatre presents four musicals this season.

Stagestruck

Celebrating its 50th anniversary season, Riverside Theatre presents four musicals on its Stark Main Stage and two plays on its more intimate Waxlax Stage. And, as always, Theatre for Kids, Comedy Zone and Live in the Loop, and a variety of classes and programs will continue to entertain and educate the community.

With two musicals already under its belt in this, its 66th season, Vero Beach Theatre Guild is looking forward to many more performances, including December’s “Tinsel and Tidings: A Community Concert,” 9 to 5: The Musical, and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim.

Frederick Arthur Bridgman, Cleopatra on the Terraces at Philae, 1896. Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 46 1/8 inches. Dahesh Museum of Art, New York. 1999.5
Frederick Arthur Bridgman, Cleopatra on the Terraces at Philae, 1896. Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 46 1/8 inches. Dahesh Museum of Art, New York. 1999.5

Visual Effects

After the current M.C. Escher exhibition wraps up in January, Vero Beach Museum of Art will open “Ancient Egypt & the Napoleonic Era: Masterworks from the Dahesh Museum of Art.” During this three-month exhibition of paintings and sculptures, VBMA will also celebrate other art forms with major annual events: Fashion Meets Art February 21 and Art in Bloom, featuring floral designer Jennifer Figge, March 7.

The Vero Beach Art Club, an important part of the local art scene for nearly nine decades, has plenty of exhibitions, classes, and community engagement projects planned. Nine Art in the Park Sundays are scheduled between now and April, and the 73rd Under the Oaks fine arts and crafts show will take place March 8–10.

McKee Botanical Garden is proud to host a six-month installation of unique, larger-than-life artworks created by The Myth Makers especially for the garden. It’s called “A Tropical Flock: Avian Avatars.”

The Myth Makers, married artists Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein
The Myth Makers, married artists Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein.

Q&A 

In anticipation of some of the questions readers might have about the “Avian Avatars” being unveiled at McKee Botanical Garden this month, we reached out to The Myth Makers, married artists Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein, and they graciously satisfied our curiosity.

How does your personal relationship enhance your ability to create a shared artistic vision?

We work together collaboratively as The Myth Makers on our shared public art projects. Our relationship does enhance our ability to create our monumental works because we can travel and work together for long stretches of time without the feeling of missing our partner back home. Plus we both have a variety of skills that we combine for each project. Our different perspectives make the work stronger and broaden our reach.

Why “The Myth Makers”?

We needed a team name when we started working together. It became a solution to a challenge we faced in the first public art project we completed. We had a vision for combining Andy’s signature technique of building with saplings with Donna’s animal-headed goddess figure vocabulary. We had applied to two municipal art projects in New Hampshire, figuring that we would build our sculpture for one or the other. When they both chose our design, we had to come up with a story about why there would be two similar sculptures in two different cities, and with that, The Myth Makers was born. 

The Great Owl by The Myth Makers
The Great Owl by The Myth Makers

The vast majority of your works seem to depict birds. What makes them a preferred subject for you?

We are both amateur bird watchers, and that plays a role in our shared vision. There is enormous variety within the avian world that offers us a seemingly endless number of bird species to choose from. Birds capture the human imagination with their magical ability to fly, and they challenge us to think differently about the seasons, national borders, and the environment.

What types of materials do you use, and are they environmentally friendly?

Our sculptures are built from bamboo or saplings that are tied together with wire ties or sometimes zip ties. We do enhance the sculptures with splashes of color. The materials we use for adding color vary from recycled materials to industrial materials that are color fast when used outdoors. Since our installations are often on view for six months or even many years, it is important that the materials can withstand all types of weather and all four seasons of the year. Eventually the sculptures will be composted back into the earth, leaving a trace of materials to recycle or discard.

Your McKee installation will consist of 10 sculptures. Where does this rank among your installments as far as number of figures?

This will be our largest installation to date. All the sculptures are designed and built for this show. We are very excited to partner with this very exceptional garden to create “A Tropical Flock: Avian Avatars.”

Is there something in particular about McKee Botanical Garden that makes this project special to you or offers an opportunity to “spread your wings” as artists?

McKee Botanical Garden is a very tropical environment with intimate paths and trails that invite a different approach. We are presenting new works that are more playful, some with interactive sound for the first time. We are also presenting works in the water for the first time. The variety of environments within the garden offers many inspirations for our sculptures. The McKee Garden is a great team to work with and we are very excited for this installation.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon will take part in VBMA’s International Lecture Series March 11. Photo by Adam Hillier Photography
Lady Fiona Carnarvon will take part in VBMA’s International Lecture Series March 11. Photo by Adam Hillier Photography

A Way with Words

For a quarter century, Riverside Theatre’s Distinguished Lecturer Series has brought speakers to Vero Beach to discuss a variety of timely topics. This year’s roster includes journalist and attorney Shannon Bream, diplomat and politician Jon Huntsman Jr., political strategist Karl Rove, economist Lawrence Summers, and author and historian Walter Isaacson. 

Vero Beach Museum of Art’s 2024 International Lecture Series will coincide in both time and topics with its “Ancient Egypt & the Napoleonic Era” exhibition. Sarah Parcak will discuss the use of satellites to find archaeological sites; “art detective” Robert Wittman will talk about the recovery of stolen art and artifacts; Lady Fiona Carnarvon will tell the story of Lord Carnarvon, Howard Carter, and their discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun; and Bernard Fishman will offer a visual tour of Egypt as experienced by Victorian visitors.

The Laura (Riding) Jackson foundation hosts Billy Collins November 2. Photo by Bill Hayes
The Laura (Riding) Jackson foundation hosts Billy Collins November 2. Photo by Bill Hayes

True to its literary mission, the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation welcomes former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins this month for “Adventures in Poetry,” which will consist of two events—a luncheon and an evening talk—on November 2. In April, more poets will be in town for the foundation’s 13th annual Poetry and BBQ event.

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