Don’t wait until the 7th annual South Carolina Jazz Festival is upon you to find out who’s playing where and what’s going on. Make your plans now, for the whole family. Rest assured, there should be something for everyone and every age. You don’t want to miss a single note.
The four day celebration, planned Oct. 18 -21, not only honors the birthday and musical legacy of Cheraw’s native son, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, it prompts music lovers throughout the region to celebrate the sounds of jazz and appreciate the unique category within, known as Be-Bop, that Gillespie is said to have originated.
Gillespie was born Oct. 21, 1917, and is described by jazz historians as “an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and occasionally, singer.” Gillespie’s contributions to jazz are considered immense.
Gillespie and his wife of 53 years, Lorraine Willis Gillespie, both died in 1993. Although Cheraw has long celebrated his talents and inspirational influence on this community, the annual jazz festival is now a growing tribute to his music.
A quick list of the festival’s events include: the Dizzy Gillespie Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament, Be-Bop parade, art competitions, kids’ activities, a sidewalk chalk competition, in-school musical performances, a 5K Run/Walk by Faith Christian Academy, a Jazzy Breakfast with the Cheraw Rescue Squad, and a Jazz Luncheon hosted by the Southern African American Heritage Center.
“Of course, jazz will abound at numerous venues,” said Lindsay Bennett, executive director of the Cheraw Arts Commission. Those venues include Centennial Park, various restaurants downtown, schools, Wesley United Methodist Church, Gillespie Homesite Park, and the Theatre on the Green.
A new addition to this year’s festival is a free evening concert scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18, featuring trumpet player Joe Gransden. This event, referred to as Evening Jazz on the Town Green, begins at 6:30 p.m. “We’re hoping people will bring lawn chairs and enjoy jazz under the stars,” said Bennett.
Another new event, the Picnic at the Gillespie Home Site Park on Huger Street, will be held Sunday at 12:30 p.m. A new piece of sculpture, created by South Carolina metal artist Bob Doster, will be revealed during the picnic. The piece was was inspired by current art students of Long Middle School.
For the fifth year, the weekend celebration concludes on Sunday afternoon with a Jazz Mass sponsored by the Cheraw Ministerial Association. Wesley United Methodist Church hosts this year’s mass at 3 p.m., featuring local voices with a Community Jazz Choir.
Students at Cheraw schools will enjoy in-school jazz performances on Thursday, Oct. 18. The Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band from Colorado Springs, Colo., will perform at Cheraw High and at Long Middle School, while area musician Rakim McQueen performs at Cheraw Primary and Intermediate Schools. Performances at the Theatre on the Green are also planned for students throughout the week.
Jazz at the Theatre on the Green will feature the 2009 Grammy Nominated Best Jazz Vocalist Kate McGarry on Friday, Oct. 19.
Think Jazz Orchestra, “a tour de force,” said Bennett, showcases the talents of eight of South Carolina’s finest jazz musicians on Saturday evening at the Theatre on the Green.
Theatre seating is limited on both nights of the festival. Tickets for these evening concerts are available at the Cheraw Community Center at 200 Powe Street. They may also be purchased on line at www.scjazzfestival.com.
Remaining tickets will be sold at Market Hall, on the corner of Market and Second Streets, during the festival. Single Night tickets are $20 and weekend passes for both nights are $35.
The 7th annual SC Jazz Festival offers something for everyone. And like Bennett said, “you should Be-Bop on down” and enjoy the fun.
For a complete event line-up, visit www.scjazzfestival.com or call 843-537-8420 for additional information.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.