With the territory’s centennial and other milestones approaching, Reichhold Center for the Arts officials said Thursday that its upcoming 38th season is meant to be a celebratory offering to the community in cultural arts and education.
The new season was, as usual, unveiled during a St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event, which brought hundreds out to the Reichhold grounds for a “meet and mingle” that continued for more than two hours before anyone even hit the stage.
Looking around, University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall said Thursday’s was the largest crowd he’d seen in seven years, which he said proves that the Reichhold is still a “premier attraction” for the local community.
“We’re very excited about the season because we have some truly unique artists coming,” Hall said, adding that one of the things he was personally excited about was continuing the Gospel Jubilee.
Hall said that several of the season performances overlap with next year’s Transfer Day centennial events and, in putting the lineup together, the Reichhold team sought to highlight V.I. culture while also bringing out individuals from the territory who are “also helping to perform and develop what we’re doing.”
One of those individuals is Homer Bryant of the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, which has become even more popular over the past few months after footage of their hip hop ballet dancers, who did their entire performance en point, was shared over social media.
Denise Humphrey, Reichhold Center’s interim director, said Thursday that Bryant was one of the first performers to receive a scholarship from the V.I. Council of the Arts for dance, and that bringing him back to the territory would help the center celebrate VICA’s 50th anniversary and its contributions to the community.
Each year VICA also sponsors a series of residency workshops that give local students the chance to learn from some of the season’s best acts and to show off their own skills on the stage.
Along with VICA’s birthday, Reichhold is also celebrating its 30th this year and Humphrey said the season officially kicks off Oct. 8 with a performance from rhythm and blues singer Brandy (Norwood.)
Humphrey said the center’s team thought it would be a good idea to start the year “with someone big,” and Brandy, a Grammy award winner with multi-platinum albums, was a good choice. Best known for her self-titled debut album in the early 90s, Brandy also starred for six seasons as the main character in the sitcom Moesha and restarted her music career afterward with a musical partnership with Monica, another 90s R&B icon, and their successful duet “The Boy is Mine.”
Esperanza Spalding, a jazz bassist, cellist, singer and songwriter, is next on the lineup, followed by the dancing Bryant on Nov. 26.
Humphrey said on Jan. 14, 2017, Reichhold will host Joey Alexander, a 12-year-old jazz piano prodigy from Indonesia. Alexander’s first album, “My Favorite Things,” was released last May, when he was 11, and won a Grammy.
Gospel singer Fred Hammond will take the Reichhold stage through February.
Humphrey said for the center’s 2017 Centennial Celebration offering, an original “Playing Ring” production is scheduled for March 23.
“In putting this all together, we wanted to try and create a season that’s diverse,” Humphrey said. “This way, we can introduce everyone to various aspects and different genres of the arts and truly have something for everyone. It’s wonderful to have people come in and see something they like, but to also try something new that they might not have thought they wanted to experience.”
Humphrey said this year’s season also takes gives residents a chance to experience various upgrades that the Reichhold has been steadily receiving over the past two years, including more Americans with Disabilities Act compliant features like hand railings and parking spaces, improved roofing within the building, and other enhancements that she said would help the center “better accommodate our audience and upcoming performances.”