Farewell, we hope not goodbye
In town this week for his farewell concert is Newnan’s famous son Charles Wadsworth, who for two decades has brought some of the world’s top chamber music talent to the hall that now bears his name.
It will be a bittersweet night for Newnan-area friends and fans who enjoy and anticipate each spring his special style and wit at the annual Charles Wadsworth and Friends concerts.
What is now the Wadsworth Auditorium stage is the same one where he played in recitals as a boy, growing up in a house next door to the venue. His backing of the series has helped fund the hall’s renovation.
Wadsworth grew up in Newnan and quickly became an accomplished pianist. By age 13, he was the substitute pianist and organist at local churches. He went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the famed Julliard School and moved to New York in 1952 to begin his professional career.
In New York, he founded the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 1969, leading it as artistic director and pianist for 20 years and bringing chamber music the unprecedented popularity that it enjoys today. His innovative programming and the varied repertoire he unearthed inspired a new generation of virtuoso musicians to perform chamber music, fostering the creation of such festivals worldwide.
Beginning in 1977, Wadsworth served for decades as one of the artistic directors of the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, where he served as pianist and host of the daily chamber music concerts. Similar concerts were created in 1960 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
Wadsworth celebrated his 84th birthday last year and, since announcing his retirement in 2010, has limited his concert appearances. At the farewell concert Saturday at 7:30 p.m., organized by the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, Wadsworth will once again be joined by a group of world-class musicians as they present the much-anticipated concert that has become one of Newnan’s most prominent cultural event.
The concert includes encore performances of three of Newnan’s favorite classical artists: Newnan’s own soprano Courtenay Budd, violinist Chee-Yun, and cellist Edward Aaron. Additionally, Irish baritone Michael Kelly and Korean pianist Ji-Yong will be featured. With Charles Wadsworth as host and the impressive assemblage of artists, it promises to be another glittering evening.
We understand from concert chairman John White of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission that Wadsworth will have a number of his family members visiting Newnan with him for this concert.
Maybe we can call this more of a reunion visit home than a farewell. We are sure that for Wadsworth’s friends, they hope this is just a farewell to the concert stage and not goodbye to Newnan. For Charles Wadsworth, Newnan’s door is always open.