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Local production will feature music, comedy, stories from the Harlem Renaissance

(L-R) Brian Elsesser, Beverly Brennan and Bobby Norfolk talk about a local production featuring work from the Harlem Renaissance.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Brian Elsesser, Beverly Brennan and Bobby Norfolk talk about a local production featuring work from the Harlem Renaissance.

Anyone who’s spent time in New York City knows that if you want to get to Harlem, you take the A train. That is the title of a special program paying tribute to the Harlem Renaissance – when black entertainment culture exploded in Harlem in the form of poetry, music and comedy.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about a local production celebrating the artistic achievements of African-Americans during the Harlem Renaissance. It will feature jazz, blues, poetry and storytelling.

Storyteller Bobby Norfolk will perform at the show and said the Harlem Renaissance is very close to his heart.

“From way back in the day…I was always pulled to the whole historical references of how the Harlem Renaissance takes place in a period where it almost is like a continuum; what goes around comes around,” he said.

Beverly Brennan, who recently retired as director of Theater and Drama at Harris-Stowe State University, is the emcee, vocalist and director of "Take the A Train." She said she noticed a lot of African-American literature was not featured in her American literature textbooks when she taught in public schools.

“I noticed a lot of this stuff was not in there,” she said. “We need to understand that this was a wonderful period in American literature.”

Norfolk said the lack of exposure to the iconic entertainment was an act of “omission” that was done on “purpose.” Both Brennan and Norfolk decided to work together and put together a night of performances highlighting the contributions made during the Harlem Renaissance.

“The material is brilliant and it almost just carries itself,” Brennen said. Some songs featured in the night will “Honeysuckle rose,” “Jump Back Honey” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.”

Joining Brennan and Norfolk on the program is University of Missouri-St. Louis chancellor Tom George on the piano.

“He’s amazing,” Brennan said. “He’s doing a piano solo on ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and it’s so gorgeous. The chords are just so beautiful. Bobby and I just sit there and look at each other like ‘he could do a show by himself for real.’”

Board member of the Link Auditorium, Brian Elsesser, said having the performance at the auditorium designed by local architect Theodore Link was crucial.

“The auditorium is perfect for the types of performances that Bobby and Beverly do,” he said. “It’s truly a gem.”

The show is not sold out, and tickets will be available to be purchased at the door for $10. For more information about the Link Auditorium or to book an event, call Brian Elsesser at (314) 495-6520.

Listen below to host Don Marsh sing along with Brennan, Elsesser and Norfolk:


Related Event:

What: “Take the ‘A’ Train”

When: Nov. 17, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.

Where: The Link Auditorium, 4504 Westminster Pl St. Louis MO 63108

More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
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