Thank you for over 80 years of support!
In April of 2018, we completed the final musical event to total 80 years of concerts. We are sad to end this long tradition and wish it could have gone on forever.
The Lewis County Concert Board
PO BOX 1483
Chehalis, WA 98531
Lewis County Concerts was made possible by many, many people who have generously given donations of money and time for over 80 years.
The history of Community Concerts parallels in many ways that of the past century. America in the 1920s underwent rapid change and modernization, and the performing arts were no exception. While Chautauqua tours, traveling minstrel shows, and vaudeville had created a national appetite for live performance, they were disappearing from the scene. There was a demand for concerts; the question was how to find a new way to cover their cost.
In 1927 an idea destined to revolutionize the performing arts in America sprang up simultaneously in the Great Lakes region and in several Eastern states. Instead of struggling to make up deficits after the fact, people thought, why not raise some money first and then hire the artists. It was a plan that worked, and it ensured the success of the humble experiments that grew first into the organized audience plan and ultimately into Community Concerts, the largest, most enduring network of performing arts presenters that has ever existed. The organized audience idea caught fire and spread: it fostered cultural development on an unprecedented scale. Early featured artists included Vladimir Horowitz, Lawrence Tibbet, Jascha Heifetz and Yehudi Menuhin.
The Music Teachers of the County organized the first Lewis County Community Concert Association (LCCCA). The first season was 1937-38 and has been continuous except for the period 1940-1944, due to World War II and post war years when travel problems were prevalent. People were determined that economic hardship would not deprive them of beauty and meaning in their lives. Minutes from Association meetings held in Dust Bowl towns refer to families who could not afford the 50 cents to attend the concert and were being carried by loans from neighbors or by the Association itself.
LCCA had at least four concerts each season. During the early years, the concerts were held, two in the Centralia High School auditorium, and two in the present R. E. Bennett auditorium. After the Centralia High School building was torn down, all concerts were held at R.E. Bennett. In 2003 the first concerts were held in the recently completed Corbet Theater on the Centralia College campus.
After WWII, Community Concerts expanded rapidly. Between 1945 and 1950, the total number of community concert associations rose to an all time high of 1008. Audiences enjoyed the talents of performers like Rudolph Serkin, Paul Robeson and the Von Trapp Family Singers. Community Concert Associations were formed in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and even, briefly, in South Africa.
Some of the past officers and dedicated workers are Mary Ann Brumsickle, Dr. Ed Crook, Eileen Farr, Gen Gallagher, Mary Beth Giske, Eileen Horner, Mr. And Mrs. Orlo Mohr, Bonnie Olson, Victoria Parypa, Helen Peterson, Neva Ross, and many others.
Since the early days, Community Concerts have continued to adapt to change and have successfully weathered many challenges. Faced with the advent of television, competing performing arts presenters, and changing lifestyles, the total number of Associations have declined from the remarkable figures of the early 1950s, but Community Concerts remained a vital force in the arts world and in the early 90s still boasted close to 400 affiliate Associations. In later years, Community Concert programs have contained names including Van Cliburn, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe, the London Symphony Orchestra with Andre Previn, Claudio Arrau, Leontyne Price and a wide and impressive variety of others. The concerts continue to be of the highest quality, a vital mix of major stars and performers still on their way to prominence. The Community Concert as a national Association ended in 2003* and since that time the Lewis County Concerts goal remains, as it has always been, “to offer every man, woman, and child in this country and beyond the opportunity to experience the magic of live performance by bringing artists and audiences together.”
During the 1990s and until early 2004, the number of volunteers working to produce the concerts had continually declined. With the demise of the national Association, the few remaining stalwarts had become overworked and discouraged. The whole project was about to cease. In early 2004, an entirely new organization was built with lofty goals and very wide volunteer participation.
The 2004-05 season saw an entire new restructuring and revitalization under the solid guidance and encouragement of Virgil Fox, who remains our President Emeritus to this day. The quality of the performances has been upgraded, and five performances are being presented rather than the previous four. Many new facets have been added, such as scholarships and a student outreach program with all of the community schools. LCC has developed an exciting symbiotic relationship with the Centralia Community College Foundation, whereby many common interests are being furthered.