‘Friends of Wadsworth’ series off to strong start

by Ellen Corker


Charles Wadsworth receives a rose from Newnan Mayor Keith Brady. 

If multiple standing ovations are any indication, the “Friends of Wadsworth” concert series will continue to be a success.

After retiring from touring, Newnan famous son Charles Wadsworth this year turned the reins of the hometown concert series over to soprano Courtenay Budd, who served as host for the chamber music concert in Wadsworth Auditorium.

The municipal auditorium, renamed some years ago to honor Wadsworth, has been restored to its Art Deco-era glory in part through funding raised through the two decades of the former Wadsworth and Friends spring concerts. Designed by noted architect R. Kennon Perry, the municipal building opened in 1939. Wadsworth, who grew up in a house next door, performed youth recitals in the hall that now bears his name.

Over the last two decades, Wadsworth, who enjoyed a long career at Lincoln Center in New York City and with music festivals in Italy and Charleston, S.C., has brought a string of emerging and successful artists from the world of classical music to entertain Newnan audiences in Wadsworth Auditorium.

Saturday’s program included some of Wadsworth’s favorite pieces, played by members of his own musical family. Wadsworth attended Saturday’s concert, receiving a warm welcome from audience members, who rose to their feet in applause as he, his wife Susan, daughter Rebecca and grandson arrived to enjoy the concert together from the audience’s perspective. He did take the mic before the concert began to talk to the gathering in his usual joking style, and he could be heard shouting out his approval to Budd after several of the musical performances.

This 2014 concert, organized by the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, was dedicated to the memory of John White, a long-standing member of the cultural arts commission who served as concert chair for the Wadsworth and Friends concerts from 2011 through 2013. His wife, Martha, and family were in the audience Saturday.

Performing with Budd were several artists who have performed with Wadsworth in past Newnan concerts – cellist Edward Arron, pianist Jeewon Park, violinist Chee-Yun and clarinetist Todd Palmer. Joining the group this year was pianist Andrew Armstrong, who also joined Budd in hosting a master class for area high school students Friday at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. The master class was made possible through funding from Newnan Rotary Club and Cargill.

Several of the pieces in Saturday’s concert included piano for four hands, performed together by Park and Armstrong.

Surprising the audience after intermission, Wadsworth came on stage with Chee-Yun to perform at the piano with her on violin presenting a piece he wrote – “Song Without Words” – which he has performed several times over the years for Newnan audiences.

This year’s concert was recorded by NuLink cable television, and DVD copies will be available for purchase, said Concert Chair Kim Wright of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.

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