Concert marks 85th year for Kalamazoo Civic

Aug 8, 2013

Hal Hobson (right) leading rehearsal for Sunday's Concert in the Park
Credit WMUK


The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre is about to begin its 85th season. The milestone will be marked this weekend during the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Concerts in the Park series. The concert is Sunday afternoon at 4:00 in Bronson Park.

The Kalamazoo Civic opened in 1929, but its first musical was not performed until 1934 when Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance was staged. Hal Hobson the musical director for this weekend’s concert says Harper Maybee was featured in that production. Maybee’s name is now on the music library at Western Michigan University. Hobson says the Civic’s history is filled with familiar names.

“Names keep coming back, Carvers and Strykers, Dorothy Delano, Helen Burdick, Howard Chenery, people that really contributed monetarily, but then also a great deal in the arts community in music and in the performing arts and theater”

Hobson says in many ways the civic is the Upjohn family’s gift to the city. They donated the land, and the money needed to construct the building. Hobson says the concert on Sunday will feature music throughout the history of the Civic and from shows that are part of the upcoming season, including Annie Get Your Gun.

“I was really trying to strike a balance, I didn’t want it to all be songs that everybody’s heard a million times, but on the other hand, we want to touch base on the familiar. Like No Business Like Show Business I knew would be one that everybody recognizes.”

The Civic’s Managing Director Kristin Chesak says many numbers will be recognizable even to people who haven’t seen the shows they come from.

“They’re ones that stay with us, the music is written in such a way that you do leave the theater singing the song. Even if you don’t know the musicals, you certainly will know the music.”

Chesak says the civic’s strength is community involvement. She says people have the opportunity to volunteer “on both sides of the curtain.” Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo Executive Director Neil Bremer says that’s part of what makes the Civic’s run of 85 years and counting so remarkable:

"This is something that is special, and special in a unique way for the Civic because we’re not expected to buy a ticket and sit in a seat and watch professionals do something. We buy a ticket and sit in a seat and watch our friends and neighbors do something when you go to the Civic. That’s terrific, and there are always surprises”

Bremer says the Civic has become an anchor for the arts community in Kalamazoo. The concert to celebrate the Kalamazoo Civic Theater’s 85th year in Kalamazoo will be Sunday afternoon at 4:00 in Bronson Park. It’s part of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Concerts in the Park series.