I worried all night and the next day that I was going to have to write a poor review for the Hampton Coliseum, a venue that I really like, and for some talented performers that didn’t have the support they needed. I know, it’s my job, but I don’t get paid for this, and I’m a softy at heart. So I procrastinated, went to a birthday party and then met some good friends for the second concert in the Portsmouth Community Concerts series this season. This was my second concert in less than 24 hours.
Not to be overly dramatic, but my soul was troubled and my heart was heavy as I walked into Willett Hall in Portsmouth on Sunday afternoon. Still hadn’t written that review of the Hampton Roads Soul Music Festival, had some other personal worries on my mind, just finished yelling at my husband about not pulling his weight around the house, all the usual stuff.
This is our second year purchasing tickets to the Portsmouth Community Concert Series. We rented a house in Portsmouth last year when we moved to Hampton Roads, and I thought it would be a good way to get together with friends and hear a little music. Besides, it was the best bargain in town for live music–$60.00 a ticket for the season–that’s for 5 live shows folks. A family ticket for the 5 shows is $125.00, 2 adults and 3 students. How can you beat that?
The dedicated people who run this organization try to bring a wide variety of music to Willett Hall. The first concert in September this year was “Live from Nashville.” Sunday’s piano performance by Umi Garrett, a 14-year-old piano prodigy, soothed my soul, calmed me down, and brought tears to my eyes. What a contrast to the night before. No sound problems at Willett Hall. The acoustics are excellent. The theater is small. There was Ms. Garrett and a baby grand piano on the stage. Not a single sheet of music. The only mic up there wasn’t even pointed at the piano. She got up from the piano bench and used it to introduce some of her numbers and make a few bad puns. She was absolutely charming and passionate about playing.
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. As I listened to her beautiful playing, I started to wonder why Willett Hall is never filled up for the Portsmouth Community Concerts. They are family-friendly and inexpensive. Parking is free. Willett Hall is right across the river, off High Street. The concerts alternate between Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. There are lots of good restaurants close by.
It’s definitely an older crowd, but I’m not sure why. The next concert in the series, Friday, November 21 at 7:30, is Paul McDermand, a percussionist who has performed with some of the greats. It will get a little edgier with Galleria Seasons on Sunday, March 22, when the Vega String Quartet will perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as abstract artist Timothy Raines paints onstage. The last concert in the series this year will be our own homegrown Old Dominium University Concert Choir, who will make the trip through the tunnel to perform in Portsmouth. You don’t have to purchase series tickets. There are plenty of excellent seats available for every performance.
So I walked into Willett Hall today feeling upset and I walked out happy. I wrote two articles instead of one. Maybe a cup of coffee with a good friend or a cry in the bathtub would have achieved the same results, but I got to listen to some fine music, support my local community’s cultural efforts and that makes me feel good.
For more info on the series, click here.