By Walter Rutledge
Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater celebrates Black History Month with a series of special programs presented throughout the month of February. The Apollo’s 2013 Black History Month programming includes the return of the popular emerging artist concert series Apollo Music Café; a free Open House Weekend; the launch of the Apollo Live Wire Discussion Series and the premiere of the all new production, Apollo Club Harlem. The diverse offerings reflect the Apollo Theatre’s rich and varied historical contributions to African-American culture and it’s continued impact on the Harlem community. There are activities designed for the entire family ranging from nostalgic looks into the Apollo’s music past to forums discusses the next generation of music makers.
Apollo Music Café begins the month long festivities with three innovative emerging artists Rebecca Naomi Jones on Friday, February 1st and Patrice Covington and B. Slade on Saturday February 2nd. The doors open for bar and food at 9 p.m., and the performance begins at 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission and A-List advance price $15 until midnight the day before performance. Tickets can be purchased at the Apollo Theater Box Office, telephone by calling Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000, or online at Ticketmaster.com.
Broadway’s own Rebecca Naomi Jones has appeared in the Tony Award winning musical American Idiot and the critically acclaimed Passing Strange. Jones is a singer who emanates an emotional charge as memorable as the thrilling music she sings. This evening of storytelling through song captures with piercing intensity the dizzying roller coaster of life’s highs and lows rendered by an artist with a big Broadway voice that slides from playful to poignant.
Patrice Covington draws her music style from real life experiences. She’s been seen nationwide belting tunes with American Idol’s Ruben Studdard and has toured with the Tony award-winning show Ain’t Misbehavin’ and with Broadway’s Dreamgirls, as Effie. White. B. Slade is a singer, songwriter, and actor. He has released 27 albums over a span of 14 years, won Eight Stellar Awards, two GMA Dove Awards, and received two Grammy nominations: one for Best Soul Album for his 2004 Gold album, Out The Box and another in 2005 for Best Urban/Soul Alternative Performance for his single, “Blend,” from his 2008 mainstream album, Unspoken.
The Apollo Education Program launches a new series with the Apollo Live Wire Discussion Series- Black Men/Soul Music, Thursday, February 7th, -6:30 p.m. Celebrated author and Duke University Professor of Black Popular Culture, Mark Anthony Neal leads a discussion on the artistic, social, and political legacy of soul music and its role as an expressive art form for Black men. This series will be led by arts, entertainment, community and business scholars on topics pertinent to the Apollo Theater’s history and/or events that advance the public knowledge and appreciation of the Theater’s role in shaping American culture. Interviews will be linked to Apollo performing arts events, the Apollo Archives initiative, and Apollo Hall of Fame inductions. Discussions and interviews will be recorded and podcasts created to extend the audience reached through the endeavor and for inclusion in the Archives. This event is free, but a RSVP required at www.apolloeducation.org.
Apollo Theater Open House Weekend will take place on Saturday, February 9th and Sunday, February 10th from 12 noon to 5pm. The Apollo Theater will open its doors for a free weekend to give visitors a glimpse into our rich history with a sneak preview of our future activities. Open House Weekend will feature displays of Apollo memorabilia; live performances; family workshops; and screening film clips and shorts on Apollo Theater history and current programs; among a host of other activities. The weekend activities will include: sneak preview performances and presentations of upcoming Apollo Winter/Spring events Apollo Club Harlem, Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz and the weekend long festival Africa Now!; performances of Apollo Amateur Night winners; and cultural programs from other local organizations. Billy Mitchell, the Apollo Theater’s In-House Historian and Ambassador, will be on hand throughout the weekend sharing Apollo history.
On Saturday February 9 Family Instrument Making Workshop produced by the Apollo Education Program. Musician Kevin Hylton and visual artist Miah will guide participants in creating and decorating handmade instruments. This workshop, held in the Theater’s Soundstage, is appropriate for ages 5 and over. Children must be accompanied by an adult caregiver. Space for this activity is limited, pre-registration online at ApolloEducation.org. is strongly suggested
On Sunday, the Open House Weekend will culminate with the film Voices of Love: Whitney Houston and Her Family. Voices of Love traces the history of song in this talent-infused family and celebrates the spirit, the strength of family, and the power of gospel music to heal, to transcend and to entertain. It features Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston, Sweet Inspirations, The Drinkard Singers, Roberta Flack, Gary Houston, The Drinkard Singers II, and footage shot at the Apollo. The documentary features performances, never-before-seen footage, and exclusive interviews. a Q&A with the filmmaker, Gary Keys will follow the screening. Other free screenings on February 10th at the Apollo include the Community Works documentaries Harlem Is… Gospel and Harlem Is… Music, and New Heritage Films’ Hughes Dream Harlem, a cine-poetic film on Langston Hughes, featuring Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and others.
Apollo Club Harlem transforms the legendary theater into a nightclub reminiscent of Harlem music clubs of the 1930s and 40s. The 90 minute, fast-paced revue will be presented on Monday, February 18th; Friday, February 22nd, and Saturday, February 23rd all shows 8:30 p.m. Hosted, directed, and choreographed by the illustrious actor, director, jazz singer and choreographer Maurice Hines the cast includes the iconic Grammy Award winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, rising jazz star Cecile McLorin Salvant, street dancer Storyboard P, tap dancer extraordinaire Dormeshia, and a supporting cast of female and male dancers and musicians under the direction of music director David Berger and musical conductor Daryl Waters.
In paying homage to the Apollo’s early years, the setting will be similar to the Apollo’s big band production revues and its nightclub style stage show. Audience members in the orchestra level of the theater will sit at club style setting with table service, complete with drinks service, dancing, and interaction with the performers. Tickets are Orchestra-Level Nightclub Seating, which includes table service, cash bar, pre-show and dancing onstage is $100, Premium Front Orchestra $125 Lower Mezzanine includes complimentary pre-show Cavicchioli cocktail is $55, $65. The Upper Mezzanine includes complimentary pre-show Cavicchioli cocktail $45, $55. Tickets can be purchased at the Apollo Theater Box Office, by calling Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000 and online at Ticketmaster.com.