45th Annual Festival of the Arts returns bigger than ever after one-year hiatus

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News
Under the direction of Maestro Darwin Aquino, the Missouri River Festival Orchestra concluded the 45th performance of the Missouri River Festival of the Arts on Saturday, August 28.
Bicyclists gather before the start of the Missouri River Festival of the Arts Bike Tour on Saturday, August 21.  Cyclists had the option of a 22, 42, or 52-mile ride.
Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major performed by David Halen, Celeste Golden-Boyer, Henry Kramer, Susie Yan, and Christine Grossman during the “Ebony, Ivory and Strings” performance on Friday, August 27.
Vocalists Sarah Nordin and Tyler Putnam performed Thursday evening in “The Broadway Opener” to open the performances for the 45th Missouri River Festival of the Arts

Friends of Historic Boonville Executive Director Laura Wax said the stage at Thespian Hall in Boonville is still vibrating from the 45th Annual performance of the Missouri River Festival of the Arts, which was held August 26-28.

With stunning performances throughout the three-day period, Wax said the ‘Arts Bike Tour actually started the event off on Saturday, August 21 with a 22, 42, or 52-mile ride through the county. Wax said a total of 76 bikers participated in the 26th Annual Bike Tour and came as far away as Kansas City, but most of the riders were within a 30-mile radius.

“I had a great group of volunteers,” Wax said. “I think years ago when they first started the Bike Tour, they were looking for other ways to get people in and participating in the River ­Festival. Also, over the course of time, the route has also changed a little bit. They used to have a walking route as well, but now it’s strictly a biking route now.”

Wax added that in addition to the Bike Tour, the ‘Arts also included the Visual Arts Display-which is held at the Hain House. In its 30th year, Wax said Jeanne Pascale was featured as the artist in residence for the Visual Arts Display.

With approximately 40 pieces displayed at the Hain House, Wax said the public was invited to view and even purchase the paintings “We try to feature somebody that's local and maybe somebody's not as well-known as a way to broaden everybody's horizon to give them a little more exposure,” Wax said. “It doesn't necessarily have to be the same type of art every year. “We’ve had oil paintings, watercolors and some people do photography, so it just kind of varies on the artists and their specialty.”

In addition to the 45th year of the ‘Arts, Wax said this year is also the 50th year of the Friends of Historic Boonville, which was founded in 1971. While the original members of the Friends of Historic Boonville have passed, Wax said the several original members remain when the ‘Arts was founded in 1976. They are: Phyliss Reesman, Dick Blanck, Boonville Rotary Club and Mike and MaryBeth Conway.

Wax also commented that David Halen, Artistic Director of the Missouri River Festival of the Arts, did a special tribute to previous chairman, Frank Thacher,

Along with the special tribute by Halen, Wax said the title for Thursday’s performances was “Broadway Opener.”

Wax said the evening consisted of a sextet, starting with Chee Yun on violin performing a piece by Henry Mancini, followed by Celeste Golden Boyer on violin performing a piece by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and The Players (Mia Kim on piano, David Halen on violin, Celeste Golden Boyer on violin, Chee Yun on violin, Christine Grossman on violin and Susie Yang on cello) performing a piece by Shelly Washington.

Wax said two vocalists (Tyler Putnam on bass-baritone and Sarah Nordin on mezzo-soprano) also sang two pieces after intermission by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Leonard Berstein, Irving Berlin, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

On Friday, the title for the evening was “Ebony, Ivory and Strings.”

Wax said Henry Kramer performed two pieces, the first in A Major by Antoni Dvorak, and the second by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Meanwhile, after intermission, The Players (David Halen, Celeste Golden Boyer, Chee-Yun, Liz Lee, Christine Grossman, Susie Yang, Erik Harris, and Henry Kramer) performed a piece by E Major by Felix Mendelssohn.

To conclude the Festival of the Arts on Saturday, the title for the evening was “The Missouri River Festival Orchestra Presents!.”

Wax said Saturday’s performance was a full orchestra, which performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C Major as the finale. She said under the direction of Saint Louis Symphony concertmaster David Halen, the music performances featured soloists, duets, octets and the symphony with performers from both Kansas City and St. Louis together on one stage.

“It was great to hold the Missouri River Festival of the Arts again this year,” Wax said.  “All three components; the Bike Tour, Visual Arts Display, and evening concerts were welcomed back with open arms.  We want to thank the community for their support of this event over the last 45 years.  Without the community’s support, this wonderful opportunity would not exist, for either the audience or the performers.  We cannot wait for the 46th performance next year.”

Wax added that this year’s Festival of the Arts had great attendance for all three nights. She said the house was half full for every night

“We were very pleased with the number of tickets that were sold,” Wax said. “I know not everybody was able to make it this year, but I think we kind of understood given what everybody’s been going through. The event was canceled last year, but we felt more confident holding it this year.”

Wax said the committee also took all of the precautions this year such as cleaning with hand. Masks were also available to patrons, she said.

As for next year, Wax said Halen made the comment that as soon as they closed the curtains for 2021, they started working on the next one. “I'm sure David will have something cooking in the back of his mind,” Wax said. “We've already made some notes about how to improve on what we did this year for next year. I’m excited to see what that looks like.”