Southern Alabama's Intriguing Theatrical, Arts and Musical Allure: Birmingham
Southern Alabama offers a plethora of intriguing theaters, arts, museums and music, in addition to the civil war and civil rights histories. Small towns, such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma and Monroeville encompass a tapestry of music and literature that is inextricably linked to the history of the state's past, as well as a pursuit of fine arts and theater.
Located about 92 miles northeast of Montgomery, Birmingham is superb example of Alabama's focus on fine arts, theater and music. With literally dozens of venues to visit, the city is an appealing destination for its cultural attractions.
TheatreThe Alabama Theatre For The Performing Arts is coined as the "Showplace Of The South." Built in 1927, the ornate and gilded Egyptian interior design theater originally showed silent movies with a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. The 2000 pipe organ was the envy of the south and still is. Imagine watching the Phantom OF The Opera with the melodic organ penetrating you to the bones with thunderous chords and sound effects raining down from the heavens. Not to mention the history this grand theater holds.
Today, the theater is owned by Birmingham Inc. and is now a performing arts theater that is magnificently beautiful and features over 250 events each year. From musical performances, film festivals, opera and symphony to national touring shows and weddings, the Alabama Theatre is an exquisite venue to visit. Go online and peruse the list of marvelous shows and concerts on the schedule for 2010 including Norah Jones in May, the summer independent film festival in September, or Robert Plant performing in December.
MusicMusic in Alabama is found in every venue and is deeply ingrained in the state's and American history. With mp3s, IPods and the digital age, live music is often at a disconnect with the public. A great way to reconnect is to visit the Alabama Jazz Hall Of Fame. The Jazz Hall honors great Jazz musicians associated with Alabama and educates through impressive and informative displays.
Great Jazz artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington are featured in a linear time span that starts with boogie woogie and the great Fess Whately who taught scores of musicians jazz music.
The most interesting aspect of the Jazz Hall is a tour with Dr. Frank Adams (Doc). The 82 year-old jazz musician, who pays clarinet and saxophone, has performed and recorded with most of the greats in jazz history. Make sure to call the Jazz Hall and attend one of Doc's tours. It is an unbelievable experience and opportunity to go back in time and re-live jazz music and its indigenous roots in America.
MuseumsThe Birmingham Museum Of Art is the largest municipal art museum in the south. Visitors will be amazed at the large collections in this museum that houses the second largest collection of Wedgewood in the world to an enormous Asian collection as well. Contemporary artists such as, Dale Chihuly and Joan Mitchell are also on display and add to the ambience while visiting the various galleries. The museum is city-owned and free to visit.
Accommodations & RestaurantsOur top pick for Birmingham is the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. This hotel is situated by the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and is one of Marriott's nicest in Alabama.
The Hot & Hot Fish Club dazzles with its cuisine of fusion southern fare. Unusual parings with great flavor spark the palate. Ask to see their impressive cookbook, as well.
Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Travel Writers Alliance (ITWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger, Seattle Weekly and the Oregonian. As a freelance photojournalist, she has also worked with acclaimed musical entertainers, such as Santana, Billy Joel and Steven Tyler. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.
All photos by Patrice Raplee