Thursday, February 12, 2015

New Exhibit Opens Today at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music

"That Red Cross Girl of Mine" from the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection
"That Red Cross Girl of Mine" from the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection

The Sousa Archives' new exhibit, The Red Cross: A Soldier’s Best Friend, opened today, and features a sample of sheet music cover art from the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection. This graphic imagery illustrates America’s colorful portrayals of the Red Cross volunteer during World War I. Clara Barton, who earned recognition as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her humanitarian service during America’s Civil War, founded the American Red Cross in May 1881 as an associate relief organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross Organization. However, unlike its international associate, the American Red Cross devoted most of its early service efforts to provide relief for those individuals from the United States affected by natural disasters, such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. During America’s involvement in WWI, both the International and American Red Cross played a major role in arranging transportation of volunteers to the Western Front to aid soldiers injured during battle; and in 1917, the Red Cross received the only Nobel Peace Prize awarded between 1914 and 1918. The American public lauded these volunteers for their devotion to the troops, and many of America’s popular songs were written to honor the men and women of the Red Cross.  For more about the Sousa Archives visit

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are you maybe looking for something different to do for Valentine's Day weekend?   How about offering that someone special the stars and live music?   The Staerkel Planetarium is pleased to bring harpist Ann McLaughin back to the dome on February 13 and 14 for shows at 8:30pm.   Tickets are $5 at the door.  
Oddly enough, Ann's first trip into the dome to play in the darkness was a "blind date."   Josh Birky, who works at Parkland College in grants and contracts, called us and said, "have you ever thought about a live concert with something different than a rock and roll band?"   I asked what he had in mind and the harp came up.   Ann McLaughlin responded to a "to whom it may concern" email and the rest is history.  Ann was phenomenal to work with and was very open to different idea of what visuals to synch to her music.   The big question, of course, was . . . .is anyone going to come see a live harp concert?   That question was answered quickly as the first of two shows sold out and we had a standing room only audience!  
There's also the challenge of making the harp work in the dome.   I was surprised as to how loud the harp sounded in the dome, but we decide to mic it anyway.   One mic is floor-mounted while the other is on a mic stand where Ann has the option of addressing the crowd.   Running the visuals aren't trivial either as you can't really program anything.   Though scripts can be preprogrammed into the planetarium's digital system, they have to be started and stopped manually.   And we'll get to use some visuals that may not fit into our regular programming.   It's challenging but fun. 
It's amazing how often I get asked if we're going to do Pink Floyd again!   We haven't done our musical light shows since the spring of 2014.   The digital system is wonderful in the capabilities for flying the audience through the universe, but it won't play the old programs.   We can't control the old projectors that allowed us to do those old shows.  Having live acts like these are the closest we can come to the days of old.
When we discovered that Valentine's Day 2015 would occur on a weekend, I immediately got on the phone to Ann and she was game for a return engagement.   We look forward to hosting her AND her harp on the 13th and the 14th.