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Center Stage: Happy Birthday to Barbara B. Mann

By Staff | Feb 6, 2013

Community Concerts blasted off its 2013 season with a heartfelt, rousing, rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung by the sold out audience to celebrate its fearless, intrepid, 100 years young, dedicated leader Barbara B. Mann.

This tireless, energetic Ft Myers pioneer has been at the forefront of bringing Community Concerts to this area for 65 years, all the while also contributing her own talents as a pianist, organist, choir and community chorus Director to the musical arts of the city; add to that, Barbara puts her money where her heart is by being a $10,000 Series Underwriter. Wow, what an inspiring life and legacy Barbara has lead by showing us all, what is really meant by the phrases: “follow your dream” and “go for the gold”. Looking quite chic in a long, sparkly gown and fashionably, sassy, high heeled, strappy shoes, this wonder woman, flashed her million dollar, 100 watt smile, waved her hand and welcomed her delighted audience with her usual “Hi you all” welcome to kick off the 2013 Community Concerts into high gear.

What a woman, what a send off, and what a fabulous concert it was.

“Chanticleer” the Grammy Award winning ensemble is known around the world, as “an orchestra of voices”. The twelve men of Chanticleer (the name is a combination of the French words chanter (to sing) and clair (clear) and this ensemble does just that, singing not only clearly but beautifully the oft neglected music from medieval Renaissance to folk songs, jazz and spirituals. In Chanticleer’s vocalizing you hear music from another time that is truly timeless, comforting, pure, and uplifting as it delights the ear while it nourishes the soul. The arrangements are imaginative, inventive with such beautiful harmonies that they hang shimmering, like bliss made manifest in sound. To sum up Chanticleer’s Program titled “The Siren’s Song” was just that hypnotizing, enticing and ethereal, and thoroughly satisfying.

Chanticleer was followed by a second Community Concert’s offering four days later when “The Five Browns” took center stage at the Barbara B. Mann Theater. Billed as ‘classical music’s first family of piano virtuosos”, they certainly live up to that title. The 5 Browns Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae’ The 5 were missing one of their family Desiare, who was taking time out after delivering her first baby; her place was taken by a fellow Juilliard graduate Stephen Beus, family friend, International Piano Prize winner, orchestral soloist and current faculty member (University of Miami Ohio). This amazing pianist proved not only worthy of filling in as a member of this virtuosi group, he proved his awesome skills playing a beautiful rendition of the seldom heard Sonata Tragica Op.39 No 5 by Nikoli Medtner.

The music critics have touted the 5 Browns thusly.. “When the Browns sit down to perform on their five Steinway pianos . their eyes lock. a silent signal passes between them. And in an instant they are transformed from “regular” kids to musical dynamos. Flawless in precision and steeped in passion , they invariably stun critics and shatter the preconceptions of those who think classical music , inscrutable or intimidating; all I can add is amen to that, plus the Browns are having the time of their lives, playing for our listening pleasure.

So we are, off and running, with our wonderful Community Concerts 2013, in this new season. And let me add, this is still the best ticket price in town, for us to experience the wonderful world of the “concert stage from around the world”. And whom do we thank for that? It is none other than our fearless, intrepid, century young leader, the lady herself Barbara B. Mann. Thank you Barbara, and long may you reign!

Now while I have your attention Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 Koresh Dance Company will perform at Big Arts. This innovative dance company strives to be not only an artistic force but also an emotional experience so that the dancers can express their individuality as well as their dance technique. So be forewarned phone (395-0900) Big Arts early, this performance might just sell out quickly; when you call remind ’em Marsha sent you.