By Gene O. Morris
“Sounds of Thanksgiving” will resonate through the historic Fox Theatre in McCook when an accomplished pianist from East Hampton, N.Y. returns to his southwest Nebraska roots to present a celebration concert.
Craig Kitt, who began his musical career as a seven-year-old youngster in Wauneta, will join his former piano teacher, Joyce Hershberger, in a performance that will also include other musicians from McCook, Oberlin, Danbury and Omaha.
The celebratory concert will be presented Saturday night, Nov. 28, as a benefit for the Fox, the historic McCook theatre which is in the midst of a $1.25 million renovation campaign.
“The Fox is honored that Mr. Kitt is sharing his exceptional piano artistry with the theatre and the people of southwest Nebraska,” said Charles Coleman, the chairman of the Fox Operations & Events Committee.
“Not only is Mr. Kitt sharing his considerable piano skill with us at no cost, he is also contributing to the Fox campaign and helping the Fox present a free reception for the public and the performers following the concert,” he said.
Tickets for the Saturday after Thanksgiving Concert will go on sale today (Thursday) at Hershberger Music Co. in McCook.
Brad Hershberger, president of Hershberger Music, is helping make arrangements for the event and is providing a Baldwin grand piano for the performance.
Tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis. “Once we have reached the theatre’s capacity, 702, no additional tickets will be sold,” Hershberger announced.
Joining Kitt and Hershberger on the concert stage will be Cheryl Christner, pianist from McCook; Jonathan Christner, cellist from McCook; Leanne Miller, violinist from McCook; Lonnie Weyeneth, flugelhorn from Danbury; Joanne Wendelin, flugelhorn from Oberlin; Don McCorkle, alto horn from McCook; Paul Wood, euphonium from McCook; Philip Clay, pianist and trombonist from McCook High School; Gregg Dress, trombonist from Omaha; and John Kool, trumpeter from Omaha.
Kitt will join Hershberger, in presenting two piano duets: “Variations on a Shaker Theme” by Aaron Copland and “Marche Militaire” by Franz Schubert.
“Mrs. Hershberger provided excellent instruction for me in my teen years for both technique and theory,” Kitt said. “During my first two years at the university, the piano instructors were giving lessons on subjects Hershberger had already taught me.”
As a further tribute to Hershberger, Kitt will be playing “Brahm’s Rhapsody,” an arrangement which she taught him during his high school years.
Kitt has had an illustrious career as an accompanying and performing pianist.
His professional career started after he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music degrees from the University of Nebraska. He immediately moved to New York City and was chosen as the accompanist for the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York’s first all-black ballet company.
Simultaneously, Kitt began organ presentations during Sunday church services. He has continued his commitment to church organ music throughout the 33 years he has been in the New York City area.
For the past several years, Kitt has been the organist at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett, N.Y. He has also taught music at St. Anastasia School in Teaneck, N.J.
Alec Baldwin, a resident of Amagansett, joined Kitt for a performance of “Peter and the Wolf.”
Kitt is also a member of the Fox Hollow Trio and the Hampton Chamber Orchestra. The accomplished pianist plans and manages a series which brings three to four concerts per year to the East Hampton area.
Craig is the son of Paul and the late Elnora Kitt of the Wauneta area.
All net proceeds from the Nov. 28 concert and reception will benefit the Fox Theatre’s renovation campaign. To date, more than $427,000 of the needed $1.25 million has been raised.