Published Sunday, March 10, 2013
By ELLEN CORKER
The Wadsworth and Friends concert in Newnan on April 20 will be bittersweet, as it will be hometown famous son Charles Wadsworth’s “farewell” performance.
The Newnan Cultural Arts Commission recently sent out announcement letters to concert patrons sharing the news.
“Several years ago — on the occasion of his 80th birthday — Charles stated his intention of returning to Newnan annually ‘for as long as providentially able,’” said John White, 2013 concert chairman for the cultural arts commission. “Late last year, Charles decided that age and providence dictated that he conclude his concert appearances, and the 2013 Newnan concert would be one of a very few scheduled.”
The world-famous pianist and host will return to Newnan to perform in concert in his namesake Charles Wadsworth Municipal Auditorium on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. The witty Wadsworth will once again be joined by a group of world-class musicians as they present the much anticipated Charles Wadsworth and Friends concert that has become Newnan’s most prominent cultural event — spanning two decades. This will be his 21st concert in the series on the Newnan stage.
“On the evening of April 20, the Wadsworth Auditorium will again resound with Wadsworth’s music — including the encore performances of three of Newnan’s favorite, classical artists,” White said. Special arrangements have been made by Wadsworth for this farewell concert for performances by returning artists including Newnan’s own soprano Courtenay Budd, violinist Chee-Yun, and cellist Edward Aaron.
Additionally, Irish baritone Michael Kelly and Korean pianist Ji-Yong will join the group.
“Musically and artistically, this final Wadsworth concert will bring an evening filled with memories and world-class musicians to its Newnan audience,” White said.
There has been a change in the performers from those listed in a recent patrol letter, White said. Originally scheduled were baritone Christopheren Nokmura, who wowed the audience last year, and pianist Stephen Prutsman. Both men have conflicting engagements in Europe that weekend.
Wadsworth will again serve as host and accompanist.
Wadsworth grew up in Newnan and became an accomplished pianist at an early age and, by age 13, was filling in as the substitute pianist and organist at local churches. He went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from 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 popularity it enjoys today.
Starting in 1977, Wadsworth was 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 by Wadsworth earlier in 1960 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
He’s had many honors internationally. Locally, two recognitions include Coweta County’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts’ 2009 Richard Brooks Visionary Award of Distinction, and having an alley in Newnan designated as “Wadsworth Alley” — something he once affectionately joked about on stage.
Wadsworth has been returning annually to Newnan with his Charles Wadsworth and Friends concerts since 1993. Originally sponsored by a group of local citizens and, more recently, the City of Newnan’s Cultural Arts Commission, the concert has generated funds used to restore the city’s auditorium named after Wadsworth in 1998.
Today the concert continues supporting the ongoing upkeep and improvement of this treasured hall. With the strong support of the Newnan City Council and a large number of loyal patrons, the restoration of the auditorium was completed in 2008, according to White.
Concert proceeds have also made possible a series of Master Classes in which the visiting artists share their talents and personal experiences with groups of Coweta County students at the Coweta School System’s Centre.
General admission tickets for the concert remain budget priced at $20, White said. They will be available after March 15.
Patron tickets for the event, including a post concert reception at the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s McRitchie-Hollis Museum, are also available.
Patron inquiries are invited and information is available from Concert Chair John White, 770-253-1959. Patron requests are needed by April 1, he said.
White added that this year’s visit will be a special celebration for Wadsworth, who plans to bring along his whole family for the weekend’s events.