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Arts/Culture

Chautauqua Preview: America 1863

Photo courtesy of Chautauqua Institution

There are a few significant years in American history.  Many baby-boomers point to 1968 as an example of a year fraught with turmoil.  Younger Americans consider 2001 as a year when things changed in this country.  In the 19th century, there may be no more of an important year than 1863.  And that will be the focus this week at the Chautauqua Institution.  WBFO's Mark Scott has our Chautauqua preview.

Last week marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was also the year when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves.  Chautauqua President Tom Becker says it was a pivotal year in US history.

"Our (emphasis) is on the Emancipation Proclamation and what that meant," Becker said.  "But we also look at militarism and the emergence of strategies and instruments of war."

In fact, Wednesday morning at the Amphitheater, Civil War historian Gary Gallagher will share the gritty details of how this war was fought.  Then on Friday, Chautauqua's Education Director Sherra Babcock says history professor Joan Waugh will explore how the year 1863 continues to inform our politics and culture.

"You might not know that today's medical treatment on the battlefield comes from what was learned during the Civil War," Babcock said.  "Most people know that photography and the ability to photograph current events was first practiced in the Civil War."

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Friday's Speaker Joan Waugh

One hundred and fifty years later, and fifty years after the March on Washington, the daily afternoon program at the Hall of Philosophy will explore the topic, "Emancipation: Where Do We Go From Here."  Religion Director Joan Brown Campbell says marking the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is an important part of African-American culture.

"In their lives, the freeing of the slaves is something that is memorialized in their churches," Brown-Campbell said.  "Part of what we're going to be saying is where are we and who is it that needs emancipation today."

Brown-Campbell says the central theme of the week is how does this nation achieve true freedom for those whose lives remain in bondage to poverty, poor education and lack of jobs. 

Moving onto the evening entertainment scene at Chautauqua, its resident dance company, North Carolina Dance Theatre, performs with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Tuesday night, featuring dances from "Appalachian Suite" and "Paquita."

On Thursday night, the Chautauqua Symphony presents a classical program based on the week's theme of America 1863.  Programming Vice President Marty Merkley says the Emancipation Proclamation will be celebrated with five African-American spirituals plus Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."

And then on Friday, a very familiar voice will be heard in concert at the Amphitheater.  Michael McDonald performs lives starting at 8:15. 

For the full week's schedule, please check out the calendar at the Chautauqua Institution's website.

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Mark Scott talks with Assistant Artistic Director Mark Diamond about Chautauqua Dance
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Mark Scott talks with Programming VP Marty Merkley about Week 3 evening entertainment.