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Column: Marsalis leads National Black Arts Festival concert
by Sally F. White
Neighbor Newspapers Columnist
July 17, 2014 09:13 PM | 3992 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sally F. White
Sally F. White

The legendary Wynton Marsalis will bring his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra from New York to Atlanta for the spectacular “Modern Life, Modern Music” concert July 25 at Atlanta Symphony Hall in the Woodruff Arts Center on Peachtree Street in Midtown. The inaugural Spotlight Series curated by Marsalis and hosted by the National Black Arts Festival will feature the orchestra’s original compositions.

The inspiration for the concert and its title is how Marsalis describes his musical vision.

“We are all descendants of Africa,” he said. “Let’s celebrate the scientific death of tribalism. Modern life affords us the opportunity to choose our tribe by interest instead of genetics. Duke Ellington said it — the people are my people and jazz relates to all people.”

The June through September artistic offerings, in a variety of disciplines including music, dance, theater, film and visual art, are part of the festival’s innovative new Strategic Vision programs for 2014.

Founded in Atlanta in 1987, the festival is a cultural leader worldwide and for the past 26 years has showcased the best of black art and culture.

The nonprofit festival’s mission is to engage, cultivate and educate diverse audiences about the arts and culture of the African diaspora and provide opportunities for artistic expression across all disciplines — music, dance, theater, film and literary and visual arts.

Tickets and information: (404) 730-7315 or

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Alliance Française d’Atlanta members are hosting a chic rooftop party to commemorate Bastille Day Saturday night on the panoramic 18th floor of the Atlanta law offices of Nelson Mullins on 17th Street in Atlantic Station.

The event honors France’s national holiday, which is officially celebrated by Francophiles around the world every July 14. This year will mark the 225th anniversary of the Fête de la Fédération and the 224th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, both of which reconciled France as a stable, unified country.

This 2014 annual benefit enjoys all things French in Atlanta with a gastronomic ball. Everyone is invited to join in celebrating France’s national day in Parisian style with a Soirée Blanche-themed gala to follow in the footsteps of the epic white parties taken from Parisian nightlife.

Guests will exchange cultures — with passed hors d’oeuvres and traditional aperitifs, music, dancing, lively conversation, a taste of gastronomy with a cold buffet inspired by the south of France, French sing-alongs and a few surprises. Attendees are requested to join in the festive spirit of the evening by honoring a casual chic, white dress code.

Since 1912 the alliance has been serving the French-American Atlanta community as the premiere nonprofit provider of French language and cultural programs. In 2013 the Atlanta chapter celebrated 50 years of language instruction through its internationally recognized French language schools.

The network of Alliance Française was created in 1883 in Paris around personalities such as Jules Verne, Louis Pasteur, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Armand Colin and Ernest Renan. Today, it is a leading cultural network worldwide, with 850 establishments in 136 countries on all five continents. Each year 500,000 people of all ages attend the alliance’s classes to learn French and more than six million people participate in their cultural activities. The network is coordinated by the nonprofit Alliance Française foundation.

The Atlanta chapter is one of 140 in the U.S., serving students with language studies and unique cultural events.

Tickets and information: (404) 875-1211 or

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The National Black Arts Festival continues its summer series of 2014 Atlanta events spotlighting the arts and talents of the African diaspora.

“The Sojourner Washing Society: A Musical in Gospel & Blues” will be presented July 24 at the Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff Arts Center on Peachtree Street in Midtown.

Written by playwright Thulani Davis, the new musical is set in Atlanta a few years after the Civil War, when town boosters find themselves at odds with a group called the Washing Amazons. The spirited black women who handle the city’s dirty laundry are asking for a raise. The event is being held in partnership with the Alliance.

Admission is free.

Davis writes fiction, poetry and scripts for film and theater. She is also the author of six books including nonfiction work and award-winning PBS documentaries. Davis developed the concept for Blackside’s 1999 PBS documentary, “I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African American Arts.”

The festival is the longest-running, multi-disciplinary arts festival of the African diaspora in the country. For 26 years the Atlanta-based nonprofit has presented a series of events and exhibitions from renowned legends as well as emerging young artists to engage and inspire the public.

Information: (404) 730-7315 or

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The On the Light Side fundraiser July 26 will celebrate the legendary music of Cole Porter as the Capitol City Opera Co. and friends stage an indoor musical picnic at the Church of the Atonement on High Point Road in Sandy Springs.

Guests will enjoy Porter’s timeless songs in air-conditioned comfort and are encouraged to bring a picnic-style dinner and drinks. The evening will include a silent auction and door prizes. Funds will go to the programs for adults and children that champion local opera singers by providing performances in the Atlanta community and establishing careers.

The nonprofit opera was founded by Donna Angel in 1983 to provide locally trained singers the opportunity to learn and perform complete opera roles and continue developing their post-graduate vocal and acting skills on a professional level. It is the only opera company in the Southeast that primarily helps local singers advance their careers.

Under the artistic direction of Michael Nutter, the company presents high-quality, innovative productions throughout the year including two fully staged productions, a monthly Dinner and a Diva restaurant series and major performances solely for children. An average of 60 singers take part in the various annual programs to make opera availed to all segments of the community including an educational outreach introducing opera to schoolchildren throughout the Southeast.

Keeping true to its mission of making opera accessible to everyone, this season the opera will produce three 45-minute shows addressing different life and social skills while presenting complex ideas such as self-esteem, teamwork, honesty and scientific theory in a fresh way. Family friendly productions will include: “A Seussome Twosome,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing.”

Tickets and information: (678) 301-8013 or

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Starting July 26, two special series of public tours at Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood will explore the fascinating words and symbols in epitaphs.

Cool evening tours are hosted by Historic Oakland Foundation volunteers who present special public programs to maintain and preserve the beautiful historic cemetery in the heart of Atlanta.

The first tour, Victorian Symbolism at Oakland, is set for July 26 and Aug. 23 and will focus on the borrowed symbols representing “cemetery,” which means “sleeping place.” The second one, Epitaph: The Immortality of Words, will take place July 27, Aug. 31 and Sept. 21 and will explore “statements commemorating or epitomizing deceased persons.”

All tours will begin at 6:30 p.m. and no reservations are necessary.

Whether brief or rambling, poignant or humorous, all symbols and epitaphs at Oakland provide insight into the deceased person’s life. You may walk away with a favorite — or be inspired to write one for your deceased loved ones.

All proceeds benefit the nonprofit foundation that partners with the city of Atlanta to preserve, restore, enhance and share the cemetery with the public as an important cultural resource and an island of tranquility in the heart of the city.

The 48-acre, Victorian-style garden cemetery was founded in 1850 and is one of the largest park spaces and a significant cultural site in metro Atlanta. There are 70,000 interred including authors, mayors and governors along with celebrities and politicians, plus Confederate and Union soldiers and unmarked graves.

Information: (404) 688-2107 or

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