The holidays in historic Charleston are full of festive parades, Christmas lights, and holiday art performances! If you’re planning to visit Charleston during the holidays, you’ve made the right choice.
Visiting Charleston in the winter is a great way to escape the cold, and there is no shortage of fun holiday activities for the entire family to enjoy. Whether you want to relax in a beach vacation rental and sip hot cider or explore historic Charleston and take part in the seasonal festivities, the city is a great place to usher in the magic of the holiday season.
Ready to kick off the holiday season, Holy City-style? Here are some of the best ways to experience the holidays in Historic Charleston:
Charleston Holiday Parades
Craft brews, delicious food, live music, and family-friendly activities can all be found at one of the many holiday parades in Charleston this year. Here are a few that can’t be missed:
City of Charleston Holiday Parade
When: December 3, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Colonial Lake, Broad Street, King Street, and concluding at Marion Square
The Holiday Parade is one of Charleston’s best traditions. Hosted by the City of Charleston and the Charleston Fire Department, the parade will feature bands, performers, floats, and other entertainment to celebrate the season and get your family into the holiday spirit.
Holiday Parade of Boats
When: December 9, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Charleston Harbor
Another beloved Lowcountry tradition, the 36th Annual Holiday Parade of Boats offers a dazzling display of lights as boats decorated for the season sail past the viewing docks.
Part of the fun is attending the parade’s official viewing party! Located at the Charleston Maritime Center, guests can snack on festive foods and listen as their favorite holiday carols fill the air.
Small Town Beach Parades
Are you staying in a cozy beach vacation rental? You’ll want to experience at least one beach town parade during the holiday season.
One that can’t be missed is the annual Christmas Parade on Folly Beach. On December 9th, Santa will parade through the streets of Folly Beach as candy and other goodies are handed out to the kids.
Staying in the Town of Mount Pleasant? Check out their quaint parade. A tree-lighting and fireworks display will kick things off before more than 100 floats parade down Coleman Boulevard, delighting all who attend.
28th Annual Holiday Festival of Lights
There is no doubt about it—Charleston has some of the best festivals in the country. From Spoleto to the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, there is always something to look forward to, and the Holiday Festival of Lights is no exception.
Now in its 28th year, the Annual Holiday Festival of Lights is back and promises to deliver more excitement than ever before. Held at James Island County Park, the event is known for its three miles of stunning, multicolored light displays, and it has been named one of the “10 Best Holiday Light Shows in America” by USA Today.
The festival is more than just a driving tour; the Holiday Festival of Lights organizers welcome visitors to park their cars and explore the large, decorated walking path, visiting shops and partaking in holiday activities along the way.
The event runs from November 10th to January 1st, giving you ample opportunities to experience a magical evening that will create cherished memories for years to come.
Tree-Lighting Ceremonies in Charleston
Tree-lighting ceremonies mark the beginning of the holiday season for many people, and Charleston kicks things off with multiple tree lightings. From the official Charleston tree lighting to the celebration of Chanukah, the following tree-lighting ceremonies are sure to dazzle and delight the entire family:
Charleston Official Tree Lighting
When: December 3, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
If you thought Charleston’s church steeples were a beautiful sight, imagine a 64-foot lighted tree against Charleston’s skyline. Attend early to experience the festive performances from music and arts organizations in Marion Square, which will culminate the lighting of the 64-foot Holiday Tree of Lights.
Chanukah in the Square
When: December 17, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
This festive party is free and features music, dancing, and, of course, the lighting of the nine-foot Menorah. Charleston’s local Holocaust survivors continue the tradition of lighting the Menorah in this special Jewish celebration.
With special treats, including potato latkes and other traditional Chanukah foods, you will want to bring your appetite to this event!
Kwanzaa Kinara Lighting
When: December 26, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
For more than 40 years, Charleston has kicked off Kwanzaa celebrations with a special lighting of the Kwanzaa Kinara in downtown Charleston at Marion Square. Join the community in the celebrations and enjoy music, dancing, and readings from Lowcountry Kwanzaa leaders.
Light the Lake
When: December 1, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Colonial Lake Park
Stop by one of Charleston’s most popular parks for the Colonial Lake Christmas Tree Lighting! Enjoy food trucks and hot cocoa and a DJ playing your favorite holiday tunes as the famous Charleston Christmas Tree is lit in the middle of the lake, glimmering for all to see.
Holiday Performing Arts
Charleston has boasted a thriving arts scene for years. From improv comedy to musical performances, the Holy City always has fine performances being held in one of its historic venues.
The holidays are the perfect time to catch a festive show with the family. Whether you want a family-friendly musical performance or wish to celebrate the season with your significant other, these shows are sure to be a delight:
Annie – Dec. 1 – 17
For a family-friendly performance, be sure to catch Annie at the Footlight Players Theatre on Queen Street. This musical will warm everyone’s heart with the tale of a little orphan girl’s quest to find her family.
A Christmas Carol – Nov. 29 – Dec. 20
Presented at the historic Dock Street Theatre, the Charleston Stage brings the critically acclaimed musical adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale to life this year. Prepare to be dazzled by colorful costumes, a live orchestra, and a professional cast that will help you ring in the holidays.
A Christmas Story, The Musical – Dec. 22 – 24
Laugh along with the entire family with the hilarious tale of Ralphie Parker’s desperate quest to get an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. Directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, this new Broadway musical will be coming to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center just in time for Christmas.
Holiday Strings – Dec. 13
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra (SCO) string quartet is sure to get you into the holiday spirit with Holiday Strings, a performance featuring your favorite holiday tunes. Held at the historic Charleston Library Society on King Street, don’t miss your chance to mingle with the musicians at the reception following the concert.
Nutcracker – Dec. 2 – 3
This holiday classic has become synonymous with Christmas and is now a treasured holiday tradition for fans of ballet. Take in the magical sights and sounds at the Charleston Gaillard Center this December and witness the adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous composition.
Holiday Cabaret, Dec 1-22
Stuffed with your favorite holiday songs, Charleston’s best original Christmas show is bound to get you singing along. Hosted by the Charleston Performing Arts Center, this cheery cabaret brings C-PAC’s signature Reindeer for pure, holiday fun. Check out their “Dinner and a Show” tickets for a mouth-watering 3-course dinner at Edison, followed by the show at the theatre!
Holiday Runs for Charity Organizations
The holidays are a time to partake in charitable giving. What better way to give back than by signing up for a holiday race?Get some healthy exercise and give back this holiday season by participating in one of these holiday runs:
4th Annual Cocoa Cup 5K
Presented by Fleet Feet Sports, the 4th Annual Cocoa Cup 5K is charitable fun for the entire family. Whether you’re running with your kids in the one-mile kid’s fun run or tackling the 5K, you’ll get a warm feeling inside at the end of the race. Whether this feeling is from the complimentary hot cocoa you get at the finish line or from supporting the Lowcountry Food Bank, we can’t be certain.
27th Annual Reindeer Run – Dec. 2
Run through the lower peninsula of downtown Charleston in this family-oriented, pet-friendly race! Presented by Half-Moon Outfitters, the 5K run/walk starts near the corner of East Bay and Queen Street, taking participants along the beautiful Charleston Battery. Funds generated from the Reindeer Run will help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital that will open in 2019.
2017 Jingle Bell Run – Dec. 9
Support the Arthritis Foundation this holiday season by racing in the Jingle Bell Run. This run will help raise awareness and funds for America’s #1 cause of disability.
Held at Riverfront Park, you can run with a team of friends and family or fly solo, with 100 percent of your registration fee going toward a great cause!
Other Holiday Happenings
It’s impossible to list all the fun events during the holidays in historic Charleston. If you’re looking for a few more festive events to do in the Holy City, these are some of our recommendations:
Holiday Market at Marion Square
Take advantage of Charleston’s mild weather and venture through the Holiday Market at Marion Square. In addition to the regulars, holiday vendors will feature festive foods, art, and produce. Listen to the live band, take part in the Christmas carols, and let the kids get free visits and photos with Santa.
Christmas 1860 at the Edmondston-Alston House
On a regular day, stepping inside the Edmondston-Alston House will have you feeling as though you’ve traveled back in time. On Dec. 1 and 8, the historic house will be decorated like it would have been in 1860, allowing you to experience Christmas in Charleston just before the beginning of the Civil War.
For history buffs, this one is a can’t miss. The theatrical performers are adorned in period costumes and shed light on what life would be like before their lives would forever change.
Family Yuletide in the Stableyards
On Saturday, December 15, historic Middleton Place presents “Family Yuletide in the Stableyards,” a holiday favorite for families in Charleston. Gather around a warm fire for a night of storytelling, caroling, and craft demonstrations. The live nativity scene featuring the plantation’s animals is always a favorite feature, along with the delicious hot cider and seasonal refreshments.
Holiday Market and Craft Show
Whimsical crafts, baked goods, and homemade preserves can all be found at the annual Holiday Market & Craft Show at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market Pavilion. Stop by on December 9 and find a treasured, holiday keepsake ornament to take home with you from one of the many local craftsmen and artists.
Wine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation
Looking for a fun date night activity? Buy your tickets to Wine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall and celebrate the season with delicious food and wine pairings, along with wine and cooking demonstrations by some of the finest chefs in Charleston. The plantation looks stunning with all its holiday decorations, making it a night you’ll always remember.
With its mild weather and lighter crowds, the holidays are the perfect time for you to explore everything that Charleston has to offer. Whether you are a local or simply visiting the Holy City, there are many holiday activities that will bring joy to the entire family.
We recently introduced you to Philip Simmons, the wrought-iron artist who furthered Charleston’s ornamental gate tradition with his signature masterpieces seen throughout the city. If you recall, the craftsman passed away in 2009, but his workshop remains open on Blake Street downtown, where family members continue to keep his name and skills alive by crafting more memorable works. It’s also now a museum and book shop, so folks can still learn about Simmons and his contributions to the city.
That’s why we’ve included the Philip Simmons House as the first stopping point in this guide, although the rest of this list will concentrate below Calhoun Street (don’t worry- we’ll explore more of his works, including some north of Calhoun Street in a later post). Of these stopping points, some are quite grand, while others are easy to pass by if you don’t know what you’re looking for. There are no plaques nearby for these works and there’s not much fanfare. Some have become part of folks’ everyday lives, whether they know it or not – especially South of Broad, where you find ironworks on many if not most houses. His works blend into the scenery beautifully, but if you know where to look, Mr Simmons’s signature stamp can be seen in every neighborhood on the peninsula.
The Philip Simmons House, 30.5 Blake Street
At the Philip Simmons house, apprentices and family members continue their mission to preserve Simmons’s legacy. He created hundreds of hand-wrought iron fences, gates, and more, and he did it all from his little garage at his modest home on Blake Street. Here, you’ll get to have a short, free, informative yet informal tour that will leave you with a better understanding and a deep appreciation of the great importance of a man so beloved by his neighborhood and by all of Charleston.
91 Anson Street
Stroll over to 91 Anson where you’ll find St John’s Reformed Episcopal Church and its decorative gates bearing a wrought-iron heart and cross. There you can also wander beyond the gate and inside the Philip Simmons Garden. The entrance gate was designed by Philip Simmons, and crafted at his shop by Carlton Simmons (nephew) and Joseph Pringle (cousin). The original drawings Simmons made for the gate are kept in the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston and can be viewed online thanks to the Lowcountry Digital Library. The gate is magnificent, but the gardens behind the gate are equally lovely and worth a stroll.
313 King Street
At 313 King Street is Simmons’s first walkway gate, the Krawcheck residence, which we discussed in an earlier post. You may remember that 313 King is actually the storefront address of the Grady Ervin clothing store, and if you ask the kind folks who work there nicely, they will point you to a door in the back of the store that leads to this beautiful, historic work. This is said to be Mr. Simmons’s very first commission in Charleston.
138 Wentworth Street
At 138 Wentworth Street, the grand driveway gate of the Edwin L. Kerrison House (circa 1838) towers high above the fence and exudes elegance. The house was restored in the 1970s and that is presumably when Simmons created the gate, which includes examples of his signature perfect spirals.
45 Meeting Street
The railings and window grills at 45 Meeting Street are attributed to Simmons. The walkway gate that opens to the front yard also exudes the Simmons aesthetic with a beautiful swirling floral pattern.
2 St. Michael’s Alley
One of Simmons’s most famous and photographed works is the Egret Gate at 2 St Michael’s Alley. The alley is a quiet, short street just south of St Michael’s Church between East Bay and Meeting Streets. The gate separates the back of the driveway from the backyard and when cars are parked in the drive, it’s hard to see the full gate. This design features an egret in the center standing atop the letter R.
78 East Bay Street
78 East Bay is an example of one of Simmons’s works you may easily pass without noticing. Many of the porch railings, window grills, and especially the gates are prominently displayed in front of residences. The subtle archway detail above the door blends nicely with the building’s facade, but it’s a signature Simmons piece.
Stolls Alley, between East Bay and Church Streets, is so narrow on the East Bay end that many people miss it all together. There are five separate gates designed forged by Philip Simmons gates along the alley, so a stroll down this shady, hidden spot is highly recommended.
Philip Simmons is a household name among Charleston architecture enthusiasts. As a Lowcountry blacksmith, the renowned artisan spent his life, or 78 years of it, crafting everyday objects like horseshoes, tools, and fireplace pokers — most from his workshop at 30 1/2 Blake Street in downtown Charleston.
Simmons passed away in 2009 at the age of 97 and left his signature everywhere from the Smithsonian to Paris — but especially in Charleston. When he died, the city honored him by tying white ribbons on all of his known works throughout Charleston.
He lived here all his life, and it was on his walks to school that he became intrigued with ironwork, which would change his life. His first apprenticeship with a blacksmith began when he was only 12 years old. His supervisor was the grandson of slaves, and so the skills he learned had been passed down from several generations of African American artisans.
What Simmons is most remembered for are his stunning wrought iron gates and other ornamental work that can be seen throughout Charleston. His gate work began in the early 1940s when he met a businessman named Jack Krawcheck, who commissioned a wrought iron gate for his King Street store. Simmons had to source his materials from scrap iron since the demand for iron during World War II made iron scarce to come by.
But the result was impressive enough for the Krawcheck family to commission more than 30 more iron pieces throughout Simmons’ career. And over the course of the following seven decades, Simmons made a living with his newfound calling, creating over 500 decorative home pieces including iron balconies, window grilles, fences, and gates.
So where can you learn more about Simmons today? His craft continues to be honored in his shop on Blake Street thanks to apprentices and his family — Carlton Simmons (Nephew) and Joseph Pringle (cousin). His home is a museum house with a book shop that opened the year after his passing.
His family and colleagues want to merely fulfill Simmons’ last wish, and that is to make sure his trade is carried on, which is why engineer John Paul Huguley founded the American College of the Building Arts. Simmons was the “inspirational founder,” Huguley told the Post & Courier two years ago. The school restored one of Simmons’ most significant gates, the coiled rattlesnakes at 329 East Bay Street.
The Philip Simmons Foundation also ensures that his legacy lives on via everything from sterling silver jewelry fashioned in shapes inspired Simmons’ memorable works.
But you don’t have to stop in the Blake Street shop or shop for jewelry online to see his handiwork. Take your very own walking tour around the peninsula to behold his works everywhere from the Philip Simmons Garden at 91 Anson Street to the driveway gate of the mansion at 138 Wentworth Street to Simmons’ very first walkway gate at the Krawcheck residence at 313 King Street. Today 313 King houses the gentlemens’ shop Grady Ervin & Co. where the folks are nice enough to direct you to gate behind the store. They also sell a belt that includes this gate design, so shop around while you’re in there! It’s a lovely store.
We’ll talk more about his works you can find around Charleston over the next few months in upcoming posts dedicated to #wroughtironwednesday and the late, great Philip Simmons.
You’ve seen them — African-American women, men, and children sitting on corners of the City Market, or at Saint Michael’s Church on Broad and Meeting streets, or along Highway 17. No matter the season, 100-degree sun be damned, these folks remain steadfastly focused on their craft: sweetgrass baskets.
An intricate work of art, the sweetgrass basket is a sought-after piece of memorabilia. Tourists visiting the Lowcountry see the baskets woven before their own eyes and are given a glimpse of the history behind them. It’s impossible to come away thinking these sweet-smelling masterpieces (think fresh hay) are anything less than special.
The sweetgrass basket wasn’t always a piece of art – they were made out of necessity. Today, the folks you see crafting them are Gullah, descendants of slaves taken from West Africa and brought to the coast of South Carolina and Georgia in the 1700s to work on plantations. In addition to free labor, plantation owners gained a wealth of knowledge and skills, such as basketry.
So what are the baskets made from? Nowadays, sweetgrass. But the skill was honed in the early days using marsh grass, or also known as bulrush. Using the needly marsh grass, slaves were able to coil extremely sturdy work baskets that came to be known as fanners. Fanners were used in the rice fields for winnowing, the process of tossing hulls about so that the chaff could separate from the rice. Work baskets also held veggies, shellfish, and cotton.
It was in the early 1900s that sweetgrass was employed to weave with, in addition to pine needles and palmetto fronds, which added flexibility and bend to the creations and allowed for more intricate designs, such as loops.
The Evolution of a Basket
You can find sweetgrass grown wild in moist, sandy soils near the sea, hence the aplenty supply in the Lowcountry. In the fall, the grass is a beautiful purple before fading to white.
When it’s time to collect the grass, you simply grab the green grass by the handful, with one foot on the root, and pull it from the ground. Then it’s time to lay the grass out in the sun to dry for three to five days, which is when it shrinks and becomes a more beige color.
On average, a good-sized basket takes 10 hours to weave, not including the time it takes to source and dry the materials. The price on a larger piece? About $350, which isn’t a lot considering the labor that went into creating it. You can also find simpler designs for $40, or elaborate ones for thousands. However if you’re really on a budget, you can always also find a sweetgrass rose, which are not only below $5 but also simply gorgeous little works of art — just like the baskets.
To learn more about this incredible tradition passed down through so many generations and to have a chance to weave a basket yourself, follow basket maker Sarah Edwards-Hammond on Facebook. She frequently conducts basket classes for both adults and children.
Where have you spotted sweetgrass weavers in the Lowcountry?
Each spring, thousands visit the city of Charleston to partake in the Spoleto Festival USA, one of America’s biggest performing arts festivals. For 17 days and nights, this festival delights the Holy City with the best artistic performances with more than 150 performers from around the world.
Opera, theater, dance, jazz—the Spoleto Festival USA has it all, and the lineup is more diverse than ever in its 41st year. From highly-anticipated fan favorites to up-and-coming productions, this year promises to be even better than the last, which is incredible, considering that last year’s sales were record-breaking.
If you plan to attend this year’s festivities, then understanding the full vision of the event is essential. Spoleto’s rich history and dedication to the arts are inspiring and allow you to fully appreciate the talented performances that come to town every year.
In this insider’s guide, we will give you the scoop on the history of the Spoleto Festival USA and highlight some of the must-see premieres this year. Whether you are a Charleston local or an out-of-town attendee, consider this your go-to guide for festival this year.
The History of Spoleto Festival USA
Since 1977, the Spoleto Festival USA has been captivating audiences in Charleston and enriching an already vibrant community. First founded by Pulitzer-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, the three-week event was originally intended to be an American counterpart to the Festival of Two Worlds in the small town of Spoleto, Italy.
The founders wanted a city that would mimic the small-town charm of Spoleto, Italy, while also providing enough theaters and accommodations to host the festival. They found their ideal location in Charleston, a city that is known for its picturesque neighborhoods and historic charm.
The Holy City’s abundance of churches, theaters, and early dedication to the performing arts made it the perfect setting for the festival. In addition, the city’s vibrant community and small-town atmosphere were similar to the small Italian town, which further cemented the founder’s decision to make Charleston the home of the festival.
The Mission of the Spoleto Festival
Since its beginning in 1977, the Spoleto Festival has been committed to showcasing only the best artistic performances and supporting young artists, helping them foster their passion for the arts in all forms. It also brings a significant impact on Charleston’s economy and regularly invests in both local businesses and the community.
Dedication to Young Artists
Spoleto has supported young artists since its inception and encourages them to pair up with more experienced performers so that they can learn new skills. The festival offers many exciting opportunities for blossoming artists to advance their careers, including auditioning for the seat in the Spoleto Festival Orchestra or the Westminster Choir.
Giving Back to the Local Community
Spoleto’s mission also gives back to the city that it has called home for over 40 years. Though the event brings international fame and economic success, the festival also directly invests in the local community.
Spoleto has not only played a key role in preserving historical landmarks, such as the Dock Street Theatre and the Middleton-Pinckney House, but it also continues to educate the local community through programs that help inspire a deeper appreciation for the performing arts. Most notably, their Open Stage Door program distributes complimentary tickets to community-based organizations so that they may be part of the Spoleto experience.
Historical Charleston Theatres, Churches, and Event Spaces
Charleston boasts many elegant theatres and churches that serve as the venues for the 17-day festival. These prominent event spaces not only provide the lowcountry with a place to view world-class performances but, also offer a glimpse into the history of Charleston.
Here is a list of beloved Spoleto venues and some notable performances taking place around town.
Charleston Gaillard Center
The recently renovated Charleston Gaillard Center will once again host Spoleto’s featured opera this year, an extravagant production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Dates for the performance are May 26 and June 1, 4, 8.
The Gaillard Center will also present the Westminster Choir, Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s Great Mass.
Last, don’t miss a special, one-night-only performance by American roots musician Rhiannon Giddens on June 9th at Gaillard Center!
Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
Conducted by Joe Miller, the Westminster Choir performs at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul. This fan favorite is considered one of the most-loved traditions of the festival.
College of Charleston Cistern Yard
Performances at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard this year include Terrance Blanchard, featuring the E-Collective, on June 3rd for a one-night only performance. Multi-Grammy winner Terry Blanchard and the E-Collective create a perfect ensemble that combines jazz, funk, rock, R&B, and blues music.
College of Charleston Sottile Theatre
Israeli dance company L-E-V, is set to perform OCD Love at the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre on June 2, 3, and 4. Led by choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, the production explores love through the lens of obsessive compulsive disorders.
Monchichi, the duet that blends hip-hop with contemporary dance, will also be performing at Sottile Theatre on May 26-28.
Dock Street Theatre
The historic Dock Street Theatre will host the Druid production of Waiting for Godot, which begins on May 25. It will also host the American premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s opera Farnace, which begins May 27.
Notable Premieres and Fan Favorites
From the very beginning, Spoleto has encouraged artists from all backgrounds and ages to participate and explore their creativity to its fullest. As a result, each year brings a remarkably diverse lineup that relies on both traditional and contemporary performances to delight audiences.
Those who attend Spoleto regularly will recognize a few reoccurring performances, but there is always excitement surrounding new premieres. If you are attending the event this year, here are the anticipated performances premiering at Spoleto:
New York tapper Ayodele Casel’s world premiere, While I Have the Floor, explores identity, language, communication, and artistic legacy. Casel will also be participating in the popular “Conversations With” program, an intimate conversation with participating artists who open up about their creative processes and the experience at Spoleto.
Cinema and Sound
Fans will welcome back acclaimed pianist Stephen Prutsman, who performs the original scores for the world premiere of Cinema and Sound. The program blends silent film and a live soundtrack for a particularly innovative performance at the Woolfe Street Playhouse.
The U.S. premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s most popular 18th-century opera, Farnace, is a highly-anticipated performance this year. Produced by Garry Hynes, the mythical Roman war drama will star Anthony Roth Costanzo, a legendary countertenor.
An opera full of dark comedy and seduction, the U.S. premiere of Royal Opera House’s Quartett will be sure to captivate audiences. Composed by Luca Francesconi, conducted by John Kennedy, and directed by John Fulljames, you won’t want to miss this performance at the Memminger Auditorium.
Over the years, many regular attendees of Spoleto have their favorites events that they look forward to attending every year. Last year’s Porgy and Bess was an enormous hit in Charleston and was a signature performance of the 40th anniversary of Spoleto.
Performances aside, there are also activities and events that Spoleto fans love to attend. Here are other favorites that will please all ages and backgrounds:
The “Conversation With” program gives audiences a chance to hear from the visiting artists and get an inside glimpse into their creative thought processes. The artists will be interviewed by CBS correspondent Martha Teichner, and each presentation lasts for approximately an hour. Fans will get to hear from their favorite artists, including director Garry Hynes and pianist Stephen Prutsman.
The sessions are free as long as attendees register in advance.
Fans of Spoleto not only get to watch artistic performances, but they can join in themselves. With the “Master Classes” program, the performing artists teach both experienced and beginners dancers the art of their craft.
This year’s classes are being led by Company Wang Ramirez, L-E-V, Company Class with Gallim Dance, and Hillel Kogan. Get tickets while you can!
Held in the Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston, Jazz Talks gives audiences the chance to listen to an intimate conversation between notable jazz musicians. This year’s discussions will include the following:
Fud at 100: A Centennial Celebration: Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg discusses the legacy of his great-uncle Joseph “Fud” Livingston alongside historian Karen Chandler and music critic Larry Blumenfeld on May 28.
Trumpeting Truth – A Conversation with Terence Blanchard: Larry Blumenfeld will return to discuss arts, advocacy, and social justice issues with Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.
These events are free if you register in advance.
Spoleto Finale at Middleton Place
Of course, no one should miss Spoleto’s grand finale across the Ashley River at the historic Middleton Place. Attendants will get access to the full lineup of local and regional bands, headlined by breakout band The Revivalists. Additionally, ticket holders will also get to explore the beautiful gardens and refined lodgings of one of Charleston’s treasured National Historic Landmarks.
The Piccolo Spoleto Festival
Charleston’s existing dedication to the performing arts is one of the reasons why Spoleto Festival USA founders chose the city to host this yearly event. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Piccolo Spoleto was created to offer even more cultural opportunities.
What Is Piccolo Spoleto?
In 1979, Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. launched the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to highlight Charleston’s local performing artists. While the main venues feature artists on a national and international level, this series gives attention to regional, less known artists. Plus, most of the events are free and family-friendly!
The festival runs concurrently with its parent event, which means that everyone can easily fit some of these popular Piccolo events into their schedule.
Are you in the mood for some improv? This comedy extravaganza is held each year at Theatre 99 on Meeting Street and features top comedic artists with original performances. Although most Piccolo events are family-friendly, this one is more suited toward adults.
Piccolo Fiction Spotlight
Are you a fan of the written word? The Piccolo Fiction Spotlight invites South Carolina writers to submit their brief short stories for a chance to be published in the Charleston City Paper, broadcast on S.C. Public Radio, and be read in the historic Charleston Music Hall.
The Spotlight Concert Series
The 13-performance program features classical arrangements by The Charleston Renaissance Ensemble, Chamber Music Charleston, and the Charleston Piano Trio with violist Miles Hoffman.
The Sundown Poetry Series
One of the oldest Piccolo Festival series, the Sundown Poetry Series offers local and regional poets the opportunity to gather for free evening readings. After the readings, many authors stay for a Q & A sessions to discuss their work. This event traditionally takes place at Dock Street Courtyard on Church Street.
Ready for Spoleto Festival USA?
If you happen to be in Charleston during the festival, then you should definitely explore some of the amazing artistic performances happening in the Holy City this spring. With over 160 ticketed events, there is something for everyone at Spoleto to enjoy.
We ask the same 10 questions to very different members of Charleston’s diverse community. This week, we chat with local jazz musician Charlton Singleton.
If you keep with the local cultural scene, you may recognize Charlton Singleton. One of the Holy City’s treasures, he’s the bandleader of Charleston Jazz Orchestra and Artist in Residence at the Charleston Gaillard Center — among many other things. We recently had the opportunity to get a little more acquainted with the prolific musician as part of our new ‘10 Questions With’ series, a profile series featuring interviews with intriguing members of the local community. We hope you enjoy!
If you’re not from Charleston originally, where are you from and when did you relocate here?
I am from Awendaw. I tell people that all of the time that Awendaw is about 14 miles going north of Charleston on Hwy 17. You will pass through it on your way to McClellanville, Georgetown, Myrtle Beach.
Did you go to college, and if so, where?
Yes! I graduated from South Carolina State University in 1994 with a BA Music Performance. Being at SC State was the best time of my life.
Occupation, employer, and what your role entails.
The short answer is that I am a Musician/Entertainer…
I am self-employed as a freelancing musician. I perform, compose, arrange, record…
I am the Artist In Residence at the Gaillard Center. This position allows me to go out to schools in the Tri-County area and be a resource to students and teachers. I talk with students in grades K-12 (and some in college) about everything from our rich history of music here in the Lowcountry to the many different careers in music.
I am the Artistic Director/Bandleader of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. We have been around for eight years now and we have had tremendous support from the community. We have a season of shows with season ticket holders. All of the shows have a theme, and we perform in the historic Charleston Music Hall.
I am the organist and choir director at St. Patrick Catholic Church, which is located Downtown. I have been playing there since 1995 (although I was away touring for about four years and then came back). My first performance was at my dad’s church, Mt. Zion AME Church in Davis Station, SC. With that said, I am EXTREMELY comfortable at church.
How does your company and/or your role affect the community.
Hmmm…I like to think of myself as just an entertainer. However, I also like to educate and enlighten as many people as I can. My wife will tell you that I’m just a big ham! LOL. I love it. I love to talk. I love to perform. I hope that people in the community feel good after hearing or seeing me do those things.
Favorite part of your job?
Making people feel good. It’s just that simple. I think that I have succeeded if they leave and are humming a tune, or pondering about something I said that may have been new and/or intriguing to them. The best way of knowing if I was good or not is if they invite me back or come back to see/hear me again.
What area of Charleston do you live in and why do you love it?
I actually live in North Charleston. My part of the city is actually pretty quiet. I live close enough to downtown so that it is not so bad to go to “work,” and I live far enough from downtown that it is quiet. This is how I grew up (living in Awendaw), so it is perfect.
Who’s your most-loved local venue/cultural excursion and why? (Some examples are: rock shows at the Tin Roof, the symphony, Second Sunday, First Friday art walk, Terrace theater, Charleston Museum, PURE Theater shows, anything at Charleston Music Hall, etc)
That’s a tough question. There are many venues that I have had the good fortune to have played in. The NEW Gaillard Center…The Pour House…playing at the Music Farm back in the day with my ska band, SKWZBXX (say “squeeze box”), the intimacy of The Mezz on King St. with my small group…the Charleston Music Hall has been the venue that I have performed in most as of lately. Between the Charleston Jazz Orchestra shows and the Prince Tribute shows that my funk band have done recently at the Charleston Music Hall, they have been some of the most memorable performances that I have been a part of. I almost feel as if that is my private place, but…THERE GOES THE HAM IN ME! LOL!
What’s your go-to local dining or takeout spot, and what do you like to order?
Too many places to name. My wife and I go out to eat quite a bit. However, I do like to order sushi from Shi Ki on E. Bay St. I always get two Super Crunch Rolls, House Special Roll, Seaweed Salad, and Miso Soup. The owner will tease me whenever I order or come in without Mrs. Singleton. She will sometimes just ask, “Does Mrs. Singleton know that you are eating sushi without her…?” LOL.
Favorite Charleston day-trip destination?
That’s a tough question. As much of a ham and public person as I am or try to be, when it is time to work, I equally enjoy just relaxing at home. We occasionally get to go to the Farmer’s Market, and it’s nice to walk around. We like walking on the bridge or going out to just sit and/or swing at the Waterfront Park Downtown or the park underneath the Ravenel Bridge on the Mt. Pleasant side.
If you could live anywhere in the world, other than the Lowcountry, where would that be?
That’s ANOTHER tough question. I would choose someplace that is in good driving distance or easy public transportation to a large city with a strong arts community. San Francisco has always seemed to appeal to me. I’ve only been there once, and it was an extremely short visit. Hopefully I will get back there someday soon.
There are so many ways to bring in the holiday season throughout Charleston, but here are a few holiday celebrations going on in the area for 2016. From jazz to a cruise to the hood’s own inaugural holiday fest, there’s plenty to do without traveling far if you’re one of the many who call Charleston home. Happy holidays, and enjoy!
James Island County Park’s Festival of Lights
This one’s a no-brainer, but if you haven’t gotten in on probably the most popular Charleston tradition, here’s what you need to know. The Festival of Lights is magical, and everyone should witness it. Even with traffic, the drive through doesn’t take more than half an hour at most — and that’s driving slowly so you can see it all. It’s $20 per car, so load it up! If you go Mon-Thurs, it’s only $15/car with a canned food donation. Be sure to park your car in one of the three lots and walk around the lit paths and to the winter wonderland (near lot A), where you’ll see everything from Santa to sand art and have the opportunity to roast marshmallows — oh yes: don’t forget to pack the marshmallows!
Charleston Sleigh Ride
This unique tour embarks at West Ashley’s Ripley Light Marina but its travels are predominantly on the Ashley River through James Island’s Intracoastal Waterway, where they say you’ll have a good chance of viewing holiday lights! The cruise is nearly two hours long and is spent listening to Christmas music and stories about Charleston’s most storied holiday traditions. There’ll be plenty of hot chocolate to go around, but guests are also welcome to bring their own cooler full of drinks — and yes, that means adult beverages, too. This has been a tradition of Pegasus Charters for eight years and counting, and it’s the perfect way to ring in the season — Charleston style. Dates run from Dec. 9 until Dec. 26.
The Pour House’s Christmas Party with the Hungry Monks
If you want to relax and have a chill celebration outside on the laid-back deck of one of Charleston’s best music venues, head to the Pour House on Thurs. Dec. 22 for the Hungry Monks’ Christmas Party. Doors open at 4 p.m., so you can grab some grub from their onsite food truck before the music starts at 6:30 p.m. The Hungry Monks features the guys who run the music school of the same name in West Ashley and have been playing their genius blend of folk, jam, Celtic, and bluegrass tunes for many years. Oh, and children and dogs are also welcome.
It’s just not Christmas without a viewing of White Christmas, the classic from 1954. It’s hard to imagine the Christmas season even existing prior to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” While it’s fun to see the film at home, it’s extraordinary on the big screen, and that’s why the Terrace Theater is offering two chances with its screenings on Tues. Dec. 6 and Wed. Dec. 7 at 7:15 p.m. And let’s face it — this is the closest us Charlestonians will ever get to a white Christmas.
Dec. 11 Oscar Rivers and Sam Singleton Christmas show at How Art Thou
Fans of music from eras gone by will love this top-shelf jazz event coming to How Art Thou Jazz Cafe on Maybank Highway. Soul singer Sam Singleton joins jazz great Oscar Rivers (who has worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, BB King, The Temptations, Etta James, and much more) the second Sunday of every month at this intimate local jazz club, but on Dec. 11 the session will be extra special, and extra Christmas-y. This is their Holiday Season Special, so expect to hear holiday tunes performed in the jazz idiom as well as some with a touch of rhythm and blues, plus a few jazz standards. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and showtime is at 6:30.
Thrifters and Drifters
Find gifts for everyone on your list this holiday at the Royal American from 12pm-5pm on Sunday, December 11th. Thrifters and Drifters features unique vintage gifts and handmade creations from your favorite Charleston artisans. If you love vintage art, jewelry, crafts you will not want to miss this!
Charleston Parade of Boats
‘Tis the season to jingle and mingle on the harbor front! Join the Rotary Club of Charleston to celebrate the holiday season with a viewing party of the Holiday Parade of Boats at the Maritime Center on December 10th from 5-8pm. Enjoy savory foods, holiday music and a view of spectacular boats decorated for the season as they cruise across the harbor.
What holiday outing are you excited about this year?
Looking for some plans outside the house this fall? A simple scroll through the charlestoncvb.com calendar will render a long list of possibilities. Here are just a few of the events we’re looking forward to this season.
Charleston Arts Festival | Oct. 5-8
The first annual Charleston Arts Festival is brought to you by the creator of Jailbreak. Though Jailbreak’s technically defunct, the CFA finale will take place at the Old Jail on Magazine Street, so it’ll be like a Jailbreak reincarnated. Also on the agenda for CFA is Pecha Kucha 25 (8 presentations by local members of Charleston’s music community and Women & Radiohead, where local female musicians will perform Radiohead songs. Both of the latter events take place at the Music Hall, while the other facet of CAF, a Culinary Evolution, will go down at High Wire Distillery. For tickets, dates, and further details, go to charlestonartsfestival.com.
MOJA Arts Festival | Sept. 29-Oct. 9
This will be Charleston’s 33rd year with the MOJA Arts fest, a celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. The city will be taken over by isual arts, classical music, dance, gospel, jazz, poetry, R&B music, storytelling, theatre, children’s activities, traditional crafts, ethnic food, and much more. Guess what else — most events are free! Ticketed events are priced modestly. For further details, see mojafestival.com.
Lovin’ the Lowcountry Fall Festival | Nov. 3
The Footlight Players will bring their own festival to life on Nov. 3 at Pierce Park Pavilion (1801 Pierce Street, Daniel Island). Celebrating all that is fall, the fest involves a heapin’ helping of Lowcountry boil, plus bee, wine, and a silent auction. The Shem Creek Boogie Band will provide the beach music soundtrack, while SC Shagging Hall of Fame dancer Claude Robertson and dance partner Linda Ouzts cut a rug. Tickets are $35 and will benefit the Footlight Players, one of the oldest community theaters in Charleston.
Y’allFest | Nov. 11-12
Something for the teens or any young adult fiction lover, Y’allFest celebrates YA fiction, welcoming best-selling authors to the city for a series of events at Charleston Music Hall, the Charleston County Library. This year’s featured authors are many, and they include Beautiful Creatures’ Kami Garcia, Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars), and Renee Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn). Check yallfest.org for a complete list and schedule of events, like book signings and forums.
Colour of Music Festival Masterwork Series | Oct 19-23
Colour of Music celebrates black classical musicians. This year’s edition brings renowned artists from around the world to Charleston for the occasion. Some notable events include the debut of18th-Century African-American French composer Chevalier de Saint George’s only discovered opera as well as “The Anonymous Lover,” featuring Magali Leger, native of Saint George’s birthplace, the Isle of Guadeloupe, showcasing the festival’s All Things French theme. The Masterworks series opens with the petit opera on Thurs. Oct. 20 at the Gaillard Center downtown and will also include Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 in G Minor.
What are you looking forward to this season?
It’s National Poetry Month! To celebrate, we’d love to share Dusk, a beautiful piece by DuBose Heyward, whose 1925 novel Porgy later inspired the 1935 Opera Porgy and Bess with music by George Gershwin. Heyward was born in 1885 in Charleston, and it appears from his work that he knew and loved our city well.
Dusk by DuBose Heyward
They tell me she is beautiful, my City,
That she is colorful and quaint, alone
Among the cities. But I, I who have known
Her tenderness, her courage, and her pity,
Have felt her forces mold me, mind and bone,
Life after life, up from her first beginning.
How can I think of her in wood and stone!
To others she has given of her beauty,
Her gardens, and her dim, old, faded ways,
Her laughter, and her happy, drifting hours,
Glad, spendthrift April, squandering her flowers,
The sharp, still wonder of her Autumn days;
Her chimes that shimmer from St. Michael‘s steeple
Across the deep maturity of June,
Like sunlight slanting over open water
Under a high, blue, listless afternoon.
But when the dusk is deep upon the harbor,
She finds me where her rivers meet and speak,
And while the constellations ride the silence
High overhead, her cheek is on my cheek.
I know her in the thrill behind the dark
When sleep brims all her silent thoroughfares.
She is the glamor in the quiet park
That kindles simple things like grass and trees.
Wistful and wanton as her sea-born airs,
Bringer of dim, rich, age-old memories.
Out on the gloom-deep water, when the nights
Are choked with fog, and perilous, and blind,
She is the faith that tends the calling lights.
Hers is the stifled voice of harbor bells
Muffled and broken by the mist and wind.
Hers are the eyes through which I look on life
And find it brave and splendid. And the stir
Of hidden music shaping all my songs,
And these my songs, my all, belong to her.
Get Inspired by Charleston Poetry
Charleston, by Henry Timrod
Poems for Charleston, In Honor of Emanuel AME Church
Modern Works by Charleston Poets
Since the busy season is over, the Folly Beach locals can throw a party and take back the beach. Follypalooza, a carnival style, family friendly event with arts, music, games, food and more will be Saturday October 24, 2015. Come on out and enjoy the fall sunshine, listen to some tunes, and see your Folly friends, while benefiting the Folly Angels.
Last year I remember the great chili served up by the loggerheads crew, the goat curry from Chico Feo, and the Corn on the Cob seasoned perfectly from the Taco Boy truck. There is so much food to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. The music is another of my favorite parts of the festival, and this year all the bands are local. Come see my buddy Nathan play in Deadwin, just one of the acts I am looking forward to. The Folly Beach Jazz All-Stars is another act that should draw a big crowd, as they are Folly favorites, and can really jam. Arts and Crafts will be on display throughout the event, so pick up some stained glass, candles, jewelry, and more.
Kids games are the biggest part of the festival, as a boardwalk style atmosphere is created on Center Street. My kids loved the field goal kick and ring toss the best, but you will also see an inflatable obstacle course, a mechanical bull, and games for kids of all ages. You can win prizes at these games, which makes the little ones so excited, and all the proceeds are benefiting those in need.
Lastly, the people are the best part of the event. Getting the chance to see your friends, relax and chat, and meet new ones is what it is all about. I can usually count on running into some long lost pals, and catching up, while enjoying a cold beverage and watching some great music. This year, I am helping out near the obstacle course running the beanbag toss, so stop by, say hi, and we’ll be new friends too. See you there! -Vince Perna
1:30 – 3:00 Noelle Brown & The Troublemakers
3:30 – 5:00 Deadwin
3:30 – 5:00 Jazz on the Edge Allstars
Additional Info about Follypalooza 2015:
The sponsors for this year’s event include Holy City Brewing Co., Dos Equis, Thurmond Kirchner Timbes & Yelverton Law Firm, Peter McCoy/McCoy & Stokes Attorneys at Law, Dunes Properties, Planet Follywood, Follywood Productions & more.