Arias, rock and sunshine

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Last night, electrical darkness shut down a highly-anticipated performance at Academic Hall: Judith Farris (Cape Girardeau native, New York opera singer and teacher to the Broadway stars), was scheduled to sing with the Southeast Missouri Chamber Orchestra. Farris' performances are known for being a tour de force, and her repertoire was to include arias, as well as several popularly recognized Broadway standards. Not to be defeated, the concert has been rescheduled for noon today. If you have time, think about attending. Farris is one of the brighest voices to originate in our area.

Usually, operas are not my favorite art form. While living in Russia, when tickets to the best concert halls cost me little more than one American dollar, I took in as wide a variety of opera, ballet and dramas as possible. Few of the operas I attended transported me from the concert hall, however. Instead, I tended to notice how hard the seats were or how warm and stagnant the air was. One evening, I tried to count the number of designs on a most beautifully ornate ceiling.

But Farris has a powerful way of connecting with her audiences. And the sheer size of the chamber orchestra -- how all of them will be able to make the special performance, I have no idea -- always overwhelms and intrigues. If you can attend, I know your support will be rewarded with a remarkable, world-class performance.

Hard Rock Opera

The newspaper, along with KFVS12, is sponsoring a totally different kind of opera in November. It's a rock opera/Broadway extravaganza, which threatens to blow the doors off the Show Me Center with laser light shows, pyrotechnics and a big sound that features both orchestra and hard rock elements. The two media groups are joining together for this event as part of our anniversaries. One dollar of every ticket sale will go to the United Way.

A couple months ago, I didn't know much about the group, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But I did a lot of research after Show Me Center director David Ross approached the newspaper. Here are quotes from national media reviews about the group and its producer-composer-lyricist, Paul O'Neill:

"Easily the most ambitious Christmas project this year: An original symphonic hard-rock opera by Paul O'Neill about how mankind is faring 2,000 years after Jesus' birthday." -- Los Angeles Times.

"Paul O'Neill ... uses symphonic rock to unveil the inspiring story of an angel who helps a child discover the meaning of Christmas." -- USA Today.

"One-upping Mannheim Steamroller!" -- The New York Times.

"One of the most vibrant of this year's Christmas fare ... song after song seems fresh, appropriate and yet wholly spiritual!" -- Dallas Observer.

Tickets for the Nov. 17 show go on sale at Show Me Center ticket outlets this Saturday. But you can go online and buy them early via www.semissourian.com/entertainment.

Sunshine

Hats off to Attorney General Jay Nixon and his staff for traveling around the state conducting training sessions on Missouri's Sunshine Law, which protects public access to government decision-making. On Monday, Nixon was in Cape Girardeau to talk to more than 150 government officials, school board members, lawyers and reporters.

A guest speaker at the conference was Poplar Bluff mayor Loyd Matthews. Here are some of my notes from his talk:

"Keeping the press informed is one of the most important things government officials can do. They want what's best for our communities, too."

"You will always have folks who are critical of government. That's OK. ... I'll never forget Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell telling me, 'You asked for the job.' As government officials, we asked for the job, and it behooves us to do our best and to be open."

City council honors

Cape Girardeau mayor Jay Knudtson was also at the Sunshine Law conference. Later that night at the council meeting, he couldn't hold back from expressing dismay at a story told there about one Missouri mayor going eight years without a closed session. "He's either not doing his job or lying," said Knudtson.

I would tend to agree with Cape's mayor. In today's fast-moving business world, it would be impossible for a community to attract retail developments like Kohls and Sears Grand without a strong measure of confidentiality. And the Sunshine Law provides for such exceptions.

What erodes trust in government is when public bodies close meetings for wrong --and, more often, unnecessary and short-sighted -- reasons. As the attorney general stressed, "When in doubt, a meeting or record of a public body should be opened to the public."

At the council meeting on Monday, Mayor Knudtson also kindly recognized the Southeast Missourian's long history serving the community. Jackson Mayor Paul Sander recognized the Missourian on Tuesday with equally eloquent words in a Jackson proclamation. The honor from both is appreciated by the many employees of the newspaper and those who have worked here in the past 100 years. Mayors, thanks again for your kind words.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. He can be reached at jrust@semissourian.com or by calling 573-335-6611.

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