And It's Begun: 17 Days of Being Spoiled Rotten

Stephanie Hunt

It happens every year.


Those slowly rising, plaintive opening notes of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" bring tears to my eyes. The tone is bare, the musical arrangement pure and powerful. And this year those soaring notes were played in honor and memory of the beloved Ted Stern, who helped birth the Spoleto Festival USA 37 years ago, when he was president of the College of Charleston and a visionary who understood that a city alive with artistic inspiration is a city that is open to new ideas and thus ripe ground for education and a small liberal arts college. I can't think of a more fitting honor. 


Today that college is not so small, and neither is the Festival that uses its dorms, students, theaters, and galleries to fuel and sustain its diverse and vibrant offerings. And as the festival officially kicked off with Company Kafig's kick-down hip hop razzamatazz, the late Ted Stern was break-dancing in his grave, no doubt. 



After Mayor Riley intoned his annual sermon about the arts summoning our best selves and not settling for mediocrity, after he offered his robust sing-song Italian words of greeting, cannons shot off confetti and colorful paper tears, like my wet ones, trickled down on those gathered to celebrate this festive opening. I love this ritual event, this hodge-podge of symphony musicians, artists, seer-suckered gentleman and ladies in hats, tatooed hipsters, a well-mannered protester or two, tourists who just happened upon the event, and bankers on their lunch break—all gathered, plein air, at the Four Corners of Law, the pulse point for this fair old city. 


And when the bells of St. Michaels peel and sing for a good 15 minutes, part of it in sync with hip hop music—surely a first!—Charleston simply shines. Hello Spoleto! Another 17 days of being spoiled rotten...