Champagne corks were popping Sunday evening with the announcement of a new financial boost to the arts in Beaufort.
An endowment has been established to secure the future of a chamber music series that began in 1979 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Chancellor Al Panu announced the new USCB Chamber Music Endowment and invited the 350 guests to join him and Artistic Director Edward Arron in the lobby of the USCB Center for the Arts for champagne and hors d’oeuvres.
As the announcement was made, the endowment stands at $71,536.
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“Made possible by the consistent generosity of the Series’ Friends and a significant donation from Anita and John Mahoney, this endowment will ensure that the music of the world’s finest composers will continue to be played by some of the world’s finest musicians at the USCB Center for the Arts,” according to a news release from the university.
“It is a way to underwrite the future of chamber music at the university and in our community.”
Also announced is the establishment of the Legacy Society to raise money for the endowment. It will consist of all donors of at least $5,000 prior to the end of the current series on April 22, 2018.
An anonymous donor has agreed to match the first five donations of $5,000.
A plaque listing all Legacy Society members will be placed in the lobby prior to the opening of the 39th season next fall.
The USC Educational Foundation will provide expertise for investing and administering the endowment.
Sunday’s program included works by Johann Sebastian Bach (“Sonata in E-flat Major for Flute and Keyboard”), Philippe Gaubert (“Trois Aquarelles for Piano, Flue and Cello”) and Claude Debussy (“Syrinx for Solo Flute”), featuring Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Phillip Bush, piano; and Edward Arron, cello.
The annual series was founded by USCB art professor Mary Whisonant, who was followed by adjunct professor of music Ralph Cooper.
In those early years, performances were held in area banks and churches, or the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort auditorium.
It took off with the opening of the USCB performing arts center in 1983, then soared when it was directed for two decades by Charles Wadsworth.
“Many credit Charles for the chamber music revival in this country,” the late Harriet Keyserling wrote in her 1998 book, “Against the Tide.”
Keyserling got to know Wadsworth when, as a state representative and leader of legislative cultural affairs, she served on the board of Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston.
Wadsworth founded and directed the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as the chamber series in both Spoleto, Italy and Charleston.
Keyserling prevailed upon him to bring to Beaufort what she called “his skill in finding wonderful young musicians and selecting programs which not only please the audience but challenge them, and ... his folksy and charming introductions on-stage of the music and musicians.”
The series became a high point for the arts in Beaufort. That has continued following Wadsworth’s retirement as he neared age 80 in 2008, and under the leadership of Edward Arron.
“As one of those significant young artists himself and as the artistic director for the Metropolitan Museum’s Artists in Concert Series for the past eight seasons, (Arron) is uniquely qualified to ensure the continued standard of the (USCB) Festival Series,” says the university’s history of the series.
Concerts are at 5 p.m. on Sundays, with the current series continuing on Dec. 10 and then Jan. 28, March 4 and April 22 next year.
For information about the USCB Chamber Music Endowment or the Legacy Society, contact Staci Breton at 843-208-8246; or by mail at USCB Chamber Music, attn: Staci Breton, 801 Carteret St., Beaufort, SC 29902.