By Jessica Forbes
**Update: Due to the threat of inclement weather, Pensacola Opera’s “Opera in the Park” will be held at the Pensacola Opera Center located at 75 S. Tarragona St.**
Downtown Pensacola will be the perfect place for music lovers to spend the weekend thanks to two free events: “Opera in the Park” at the Community Maritime Park and the Pensacola JazzFest in Seville Square. The former is in its first year as an official occasion, while the latter is a Pensacola spring tradition now in its 31st year. Both are ideal ways to experience two styles of music that may differ from your regular playlist selections, and are brought to the community by two of the city’s most active musical organizations.
Saturday Morning Opera
The Pensacola Opera is holding its first official “Opera in the Park” event at the Community Maritime Park, and its second performance at the amphitheater. Children of all ages are invited to enjoy live performances, arts and crafts areas, and story time, among other activities planned for Saturday morning.
In 2013, the Pensacola Opera performed the children’s opera “Billy Goats Gruff” at the amphitheater to an audience of about 150, which set the stage for what the organization hopes will become an annual event.
“One look at the beautiful, outdoor venue and we were inspired to make it bigger,” said the opera’s Director of Education and Outreach, Amanda Cook. “This year we decided to add some more interactive activities for the kids and asked a few vendors to join us.”
Community partners include the Pensacola MESS Hall, Pensacola Humane Society, the Pensacola Museum of Art, Cat Country and the Community Drug and Alcohol Council. The Pensacola Opera’s Artists in Residence will perform the educational children’s opera “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day” by John Davies, a work Cook selected for the “Opera in Schools” program.
“I chose this particular piece not only because of the music it uses from real operas written by Offenbach and Rossini, but also because the storyline is quite funny. It’s a spoof on Little Red Riding Hood, but with an addition of characters and humor,” Cook said.
There will be two performances of the opera, at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m., while the other activities will go on throughout the morning.
“It is meant to be a combination of fun activities for families with a focus on opera and specifically Pensacola Opera,” Cook explained. “This event is still evolving, but we hope to watch it grow into our newest ‘Opera for the Entire Family.’”
Jazz All Weekend
During the 31st annual Pensacola JazzFest, the public has not one, but two days to take in a full schedule of live jazz in Seville Square.
A true community event, other components of JazzFest will also span the downtown area. “The Friday before JazzFest will be a jazz Gallery Night,” explained Crystal Joy Albert, President of the Jazz Society of Pensacola (JSOP), and also the festival’s Director of Music. “Most of the participating venues will be featuring jazz music.”
Also on Friday night, visiting festival headliner 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra will perform at Pensacola’s first ever Jazz Shabbat at Temple Beth El. “They play a combination of jazz and Klezmer music (Klezmer is Israeli folk music), and they have made a combination of the two which is just sensational,” Albert said of the Atlanta-based group.
Grammy-nominated TIZER, a quartet led by keyboardist Lao Tizer, also have a headlining role. “I heard him play at the Sea Breeze Jazz Festival and was very impressed with him,” Albert said. “Eventually, we got it together and he’s bringing his group here.”
Terry “Doc” Handy is a percussionist from Jacksonville, Fla., who plays with a sextet and performed at one of JSOP’s regular Jazz Gumbo concerts in 2013. “I told him it was an audition for JazzFest, and he did so well that we brought him back for JazzFest,” Albert said.
None of the visiting headliners have previously performed at Pensacola JazzFest, and all will play on both Saturday and Sunday. Local groups Joe Occhipinti’s “Dixieland Dandies” and Roger Villiene’s Sextet, “Danger,” round out the headliners, which are complemented on the schedule by several school and university groups.
Around 40 arts and crafts exhibitors and food vendors will also participate, including this year’s poster contest winner, artist Sonja Griffin Evans. JSOP will also raffle a portrait sitting with Nina Fritz, along with two pieces of her art.
As always, dozens of committee chair people and volunteers come together to make the event happen, as those active in JSOP do regularly throughout the year to make JazzFest a reality. “That’s why we work all year to raise money, so that it is free,” Albert said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
OPERA IN THE PARK
WHEN: 9 a.m.—Noon Saturday, April 5
WHERE: Community Maritime Park
PENSACOLA JAZZ FEST 2014
WHEN: 10 a.m.—6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5—Sunday, April 6
WHERE: Seville Square
School of Arts
If your arts plate isn’t full enough this weekend, the annual Festival on the Green at the University of West Florida (UWF) is also taking place on Friday and Saturday. A Crafts Fair and Fine Arts Show anchors the events each day. Live music, food vendors, a library book sale, Campus Life Expo, and displays by the Society for Creative Anachronism are also daily occurrences during the fest. Special to Saturday are a Green Trading Post (the first in the event’s history) along with a Dog Sports Exhibition with hourly events from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and a Children’s Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “Time Portals” to the past and future round out the activities during the final day of the festival. It’s the perfect, stress-free reason to head to campus.
FESTIVAL ON THE GREEN
WHEN: 10 a.m.—5 p.m. Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5
WHERE: University of West Florida Main Campus, 11000 University Pkwy.
DETAILS: For a detailed schedule of events, visit: uwf.edu/festival