Missouri River Festival brings<br> musical variety to Boonville</br>

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 | 5:44 p.m. CDT; updated 11:08 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

BOONVILLE — Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” will get a Latin American makeover, and Thespian Hall will debut its new piano during Boonville’s 32nd annual Missouri River Festival of the Arts this weekend.

Artistic Director David Halen put together the festival’s programming, which includes “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires,” a reworking of Vivaldi’s well-known set of Baroque concertos into a tango style.


What: Missouri River Festival of the Arts When: 8 p.m. Today, Friday and Saturday Where: Thespian Hall, 522 Main St., Boonville Admission: $10 for ages 18 and younger, $20 for others; tickets can be purchased by calling the box office, (660) 882-7977, or at the door. For information: friendsofhistoricboonville
Also: A visual arts exhibit, held at the Hain House, 412 Fourth St., will open before each concert at 6 p.m. The exhibition features the work of Pete Christus III, a Boonville native.

Today’s concert features the debut of a Steinway grand piano purchased from the St. Louis Steinway Piano Gallery.

Steinways are the “piano of choice,” said Frank Thacher, director of the festival. “I’ve been told the Steinway allows the artist to do more with the piano.”

Halen heard about the 12-year-old piano, which had sat in a St. Louis doctor’s house for years, Thacher said. The doctor got a new Steinway, and Halen was able to work out an agreement to purchase the other piano for $40,000. A fundraising drive brought in enough money to acquire the piano, which was delivered Aug. 1.

“We have an active arts community,” Thacher said. “Thespian Hall has been a part of life here. It wasn’t all that hard to raise the money... We got a tremendous response.”

Thacher said the piano was a “150th birthday present” for Thespian Hall, which is the oldest continuously operating theater west of the Allegheny Mountains, said Cheri Schmitz, executive director of the Friends of Historic Boonville. The hall has served a variety of functions, from a Civil War hospital to city government offices, Schmitz said. The stage was added in 1901 when the building was turned into Stephens Opera House.

“It’s such a joy for these world-class musicians to play here, because it’s such a well-kept secret that this theater for unamplified sound is in Boonville, Missouri,” Schmitz said.

Pianist Wendy Chen will perform music by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Brahms with Halen, who is a violinist, soprano Miran Halen and other musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during Thursday’s concert.

Friday night’s performance puts a twist on classical music. In addition to “The Seasons of Buenos Aires,” the program will include other Latin America-flavored tunes.

“The whole evening’s got a tango rhythm, but it’s classical-based,” Thacher said.

The festival will conclude Saturday evening with a chamber orchestra concert featuring Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.”

Ricardo Morales, principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Symphony and Juilliard School faculty member, will play the solo in Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Thacher said David Halen, who is concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, is able to draw exceptional players to the festival.

“He just knows the people,” Thacher said. “David will always bring people who play right to the edge.”

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