Clarksburg – The Robinson Grand is getting a little jazzy this fall. The Cultural Foundation of Harrison County and the Barbara B. Highland Fund for the Arts in partnership with the West Virginia Jazz Society they will be presenting The Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra November 3, 2023 at 7 PM at the RG. We spoke with some of the players involved in this show about their love of jazz and the significance of this show.
The concert will feature the Alexandria, Virginia based and award winning vocalist Sharón Clark, who spoke with Born & Bred about the upcoming show and her passion for jazz.
“Jazz always been around for me. My father was a jazz musician and we played all kinds of music in our house and it’s just something that’s always been there. I didn’t wake up one day and say “Hey, I like jazz. At any point in time any type of music would be playing in our house. It was always a mixed bag, but jazz was just something that was always prevalent.”
On what people can expect from her at the November concert Sharon said “I’m going to perform the Duke Ellington song book. This is the concert that Ella Fitzgerald did with Duke Ellington in 1966 in Berlin, one of his most famous and her most famous recordings of all time.”
The show will also feature Wesleyan grad and Fairmont native Kenny Rittenhouse on trumpet. Rittenhouse, a seventeen year member of the group, spoke about getting to perform close to home and what the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestras goals are.
“It’s great to come back to the area where you’ve grown up, because then you can have family and friends at these shows. They don’t have to travel far to see you and you get to have a little reunion. It’s always great to bring that home and be able to put jazz to the air. I used to play at home quite a bit. Eric Spelsberg has brought me down often for the West Virginia Jazz Society. It’s always good to come home and do what you love.
Rittenhouse continued as to why people should be getting tickets and looking forward to this show.
“We’re the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. One of the missions of the group is to play classic jazz. We don’t do a whole lot of experimenting with a lot of different type of music. We do a lot of the classic jazz from Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane and lot of the classics.
Who doesn’t love big band jazz? I think people may not know exactly what they’re going to be hearing or may have not listened to a lot of it, but once they hear them they will say “I remember that song” It’s really fun to expose people to this music and I’m enjoying it. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Executive Director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and drummer for the evening, Ken Kimery talked about how the show came together.
“This show goes back to pre-pandemic times. The West Virginia Jazz Society had a wonderful experience with Sharón who’s worked with the band over the years. They were excited about the idea of having the full big band with Sharón. So we have the conversations and started planning in early 2019. The pandemic, unfortunately, delayed our trip to Clarksburg because none of us could travel. But due to the efforts of the Jazz Society we are finally pulling it off.”
Kimery continued to discuss the importance of Jazz and getting to perform this show at the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center.
“Clarksburg has a real rich history of vaudeville, performing arts and jazz itself. Two of our members are from West Virginia. So there’s a lot of West Virginia pride there. What we end up doing is really celebrating the history of the music itself, not just in a particular period of time, but through the evolution of the music and looking at the brand . The Robinson Grand has a very storied past with vaudeville that they continue to present. It is a beacon for jazz and what we do. It is the perfect theater for this type of presentation. We are celebrating and not just performing great historic music, but also localizing it, giving it that touch so that everybody can see the connection to their community. It has history and resonance and it is really a way to be able to continue to build community through the music itself. So jazz is that convener, it is that way of us seeing ourselves in not just the music but as we are as citizens of our community and beyond.”
Some of the evenings selections will include the following:
When You Wish Upon A Star
New Girl – Duke Pearson
Pensive Miss – Count Basie/ Neal Hefty
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Duke Ellington
Accentuate the Positive – Ella Fitzgerald
Ain’t Misbehavin’– Ella Fitzgerald
Avalon – Nat Cole
Witching Hour – Quincy Jones
Latin American Sunshine – Duke Ellington
Quintessence – Quincy Jones
Take Five – Kenny Rittenhouse
A Flower is a Lovesome Thing – Billy Strayhorn
Honeysuckle Rose – Benny Carter
Times Square – Leonard Bernstein
Get your tickets here: The Robinson Grand Performing Arts Centerpieces