Art, history, culture take center stage on Hilton Head Island in Crescendo festival

This scene from the 2018 Sandy Springs (Georgia) Lantern Parade gives a hint at what Hilton Head Island’s first parade may look like.
This scene from the 2018 Sandy Springs (Georgia) Lantern Parade gives a hint at what Hilton Head Island’s first parade may look like. Submitted

Welcome to the stage Crescendo 2019, a phenomenal more-than-month-long event that highlights and celebrates arts, culture and history on Hilton Head Island and surrounding communities.

Sponsored by the Arts & Cultural Council of Hilton Head, our event will showcase for islanders and visitors alike, an astonishing array of arts, cultural and historical organizations — along with introductions and opportunities to meet face-to-face individual artists, performers, historians, and writers who live and work in the Hilton Head and Bluffton area.

Crescendo, for our purposes, is a term that suggests the escalation or elevation, even intensification, of the many and varied arts, cultural and historical possibilities through the third-annual production of our now storied event.

“Our celebration is timed to coincide with October’s National Art and Humanities Month, and is filled with the most exciting and varied events,” said Natalie Hefter, Crescendo chairperson.

Crescendo will consist of almost 100 separate arts and cultural events. It launched officially on Oct. 10 at the Shelter Cove Community Park, and will run through Nov. 15.

Imagine that you might, on any given day or evening, attend a ballet, take in a poetry reading, hear a Bach partita performed on The Concert Truck, tour historic Mitchelville, join in a jazz concert, preview a special film, or attend a play or musical at any of several island locations. You might take a class in jewelry making or join in an opportunity to craft a paper lantern, and further, to become a part of a Lantern Parade on the beach.

A highlight of the opening ceremony illustrates the power of art in this community — and beyond.

The Concert Truck intrigued from start to finish. Just the concept resonated with everyone who enjoys innovation and classical music.

Pianists Nick Luby and Susan Zhang had a thought — a vision, really — about taking live, quality classical music performances out of the usual concert setting, and into the most unexpected public locations. They do that in a 16-foot box truck converted into a fully functioning mobile concert hall, complete with lights, sound system, and piano.

How The Concert Truck came about is an interesting story, according to Cynthia Gorski-Popiel, president of The Performing Arts Consortium of Hilton Head, the organization that offered important support for the completion of the Concert Truck vision.

She pointed out that theirs is a story of young people with an idea, and their efforts to take that vision to the consortium ... and, especially for all to share in the most successful outcome.

The Performing Arts Consortium is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2008 on Hilton Head. It identifies, arranges, and supports performance and educational opportunities that nurture the professional development of young classical musicians. It is governed by a volunteer board of directors with significant music and business experience. It has provided The Concert Truck with generous financial support and fiscal sponsorship.

The Lantern Parade

The inaugural Hilton Head Lantern Parade will be staged Nov. 9 on the beach.

It is being developed and overseen by Chantelle Rytter, the renowned community parade artist. Her work continues even now, with artistic details and workshops.

Can you imagine the visual drama of the evening, as hundreds come together in an informal formation to make their way along the shoreline to form moonlit clusters, brightened by the impact of the hand-crafted lanterns?

Participation and formation in the parade begins at 6 p.m. at Alder Lane Beach Access, 2 Woodward Lane in South Forest Beach, and the parade will continue up to Coligny Beach Park. An official after-parade party will be hosted by the Tiki Hut.

Look forward to the announcement of a series of design workshops offering instruction in creating these astonishing lanterns.

For more information on the Lantern Parade, please visit

A sampling

This is the perfect time to point out that the third annual celebration of Crescendo has added even more engaging, informative, and educational events to the calendar.

The dramatic increase in attendance during last year’s events (more than 62,000) has inspired Arts & Cultural Council of Hilton Head members to create innovative arts experiences and cultural activities unique to the Lowcountry and only available during this special event.

“We hope that everyone in the community, residents as well as visitors, will come out and support the incredible arts, culture and history organizations,” said Natalie Hefter, the Crescendo chairperson, “and we do thank the Hilton Head/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce for its important contribution to reaching out to inform and involve more and more active participants at all of the events of Crescendo 2019.”

Following is a brief sample listing of events and activities:

“Arts Ob We People” at the Hilton Head Art League Gallery.

Iris Shepherd, violinist, in a Young Artist Performances Concert in the Home with pianist Chee-Hang See.

“Murder on the Orient Express” at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

“Inspired Threads” by the Art Quilters of the Lowcountry at Coastal Discovery Museum.

“The Humans” at The Lean Ensemble Theatre.

“The Samuel Project” Inaugural Lowcountry Jewish Film Festival at Coligny Theatre.

Ray Ushikubo, the 2017 Hilton Head International Piano Competition winner, at Sound Waves.

Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra Opening Night at First Presbyterian Church.

Jazz Fest with Deaz Guys Orchestra at Sonesta Resort.

Murray Sease Exhibit at the Art League Gallery.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

“Godspell” at the Hilton Head Preparatory School Main Street Theatre.

“The Nutcracker” at Seahawk Cultural Center.

Historic Fort Tour at Fort Mitchel Hilton Head Plantation.

Heyward House guided tours at the Heyward House Museum and Welcome Center in Bluffton.

“Inspired Threads” at Coastal Discovery Museum.

Roots of Reconstruction Tour at Mitchelville Freedom Park.

Poet Laureate Event at Bo-Art Dunnagan’s Alley.

“Cold Connections” Jewelry Making Workshops.

4th Annual Gullah Food Festival at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head.

Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival at the Port Royal Golf Club.

Hilton Head Island Lantern Parade at Alder Lane.

“An Evening with our Prince of Scribes” at Coligny Theatre.

“Crescendo brings to life the unique artistic and cultural offerings in our area. We are fortunate to have a depth and breadth of activities ... something for everyone,“ said Hefter.

“From Grammy-nominated performers to talented local artists, this year’s Crescendo has a great variety. Visitors and residents of all ages will find something special to experience in the year’s event.”