EDMOND—The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary performing arts season on October 18 as it began its 2018–2019 season with a special reception and a concert by the string trio Time for Three at Armstrong Auditorium.
An hour before curtain, 152 invited guests, including season-ticket holders, vendors, volunteer staff and long-time friends of the foundation gathered in the balcony. A number of the guests have been attending the foundation’s concerts since the auditorium opened, and some even prior to that. Founder and chairman Gerald Flurry also attended the ceremony.
As they conversed, guests had hors d’oeuvres, champagne and punch served by Herbert W. Armstrong College students, who make up most of the foundation’s concert staff, while a string trio of young musicians provided live music.
Concert manager Ryan Malone shared a brief history of the foundation with those in attendance. Established in 1996 as the Philadelphia Foundation, the organization began its concert series in October 1998: It was Malone himself who gave a piano recital for the foundation’s first performance, with about 50 guests in attendance at the downtown Edmond offices of the Philadelphia Church of God, the foundation’s sponsor.
For the 16 concerts from 1998–2001, the foundation occasionally rented local venues, such as auditoriums at area high schools or colleges. But the Church purchased land for its own campus in 2000 and constructed the John Amos Field House in 2001. The foundation resumed its concert series there in 2002 and changed its name to Armstrong International Cultural Foundation in 2006. The foundation hosted 23 concerts at the field house until the opening of the auditorium in 2010, where it had hosted 85 concerts, making Time for Three the foundation’s 125th.
Over the years, the foundation has hosted 80 acts, including Joshua Bell, The Canadian Brass, the Chieftains, the Eroica Trio, Béla Fleck, Marvin Hamlisch, the King’s Singers, Kelli O’Hara, Branford Marsalis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Moscow Festival Ballet, Peter Nero, Russian National Ballet Theatre, The Step Crew, The Vienna Boys Choir, André Watts and others.
“It was moving to think back on how far the series has come in 20 years,” Mr. Malone said, “and also it was exciting to see the many artists who sent in congratulatory video greetings.”
House manager Shane Granger led the guests in a champagne toast, noting the foundation’s small beginning and the vision that founder and chairman Gerald Flurry had for its growth. He thanked the members of the Philadelphia Church of God, artists, patrons, staff and volunteers for their support over the years, and finally “the Creator God who makes it all possible.”
As the reception ended, guests received a complimentary copy of the foundation’s new pictorial “coffee table book,” Armstrong Auditorium, as a thank-you gift.
“The mood was festive, and everyone was so happy to be celebrating such a great milestone,” Granger said. “I just wish all of God’s people could have been there to share the joy with us. We know they were there in spirit.”
The 2018–2019 concert season kicked off with the Emmy-award winning Time for Three playing for 503 concertgoers. The trio of violinists Nick Kendall and Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer is known for its ability to combine multiple styles of music into one piece.
The “Originals and Mash-ups” program included pieces that blended folk, jazz and renditions of modern pop songs into entirely new compositions. One mashup combined Johann Sebastian Bach’s profound “Chaconne” with the folk band Bon Iver’s “Calgary”: The group called it “Chaconne in Winter.”
Some of the pieces included vocals, led by Yang, and between pieces, the trio occasionally stopped to give the audience background about the music.
After a 20-minute intermission with pie and other refreshments, guests settled in for the second half, which included more mashups, several slow, meditative pieces, and some that filled the theater with layers of music charged with energy.
Following the last piece of the program, unrelenting applause from the audience brought the performers back to the stage for an encore. Meyer asked audience members what mood they would like to leave feeling, and after several shouted responses, it was decided that the night would end on a happy note.
The trio improvised for a couple of minutes, then finished with “Stand by Me.” On the last refrain, Yang encouraged the audience to sing along, and as the final notes reverberated, the audience erupted in applause.
Kendall, Meyer and Yang visited the lobby after the concert, meeting guests, taking photos and signing autographs.
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation 20th anniversary concert season continues tonight with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers with conductor Gerald Schwarz of the Mozart Orchestra of New York. The concert will stream live online at http://live.armstrongauditorium.org.
Comments posted on the TripAdvisor travel website in the week following the 20th anniversary celebration and Time for Three concert included the following:
“Entertaining on every level. Perhaps the most imagery I’ve ever experienced from a musical performance. Funny, moving, just superb.”
“Absolutely fantastic performance. As always, the performance, the auditorium, the students and staff were the best.”
“The venue is ALWAYS exquisite, and these performers were absolutely outstanding! They as performers raved about the auditorium and congratulated Armstrong Auditorium and its foundation for 20 years of serving the arts.”