Friday, June 22, 2012

The Howard Theatre

Last week we went to see Tinariwen at the recently renovated and re-opened Howard Theatre. When my Dad was in his very early years he worked for a time at the Howard (I'm guessing in the early 1930s) as a projectionist.  He'd always tell me stories about his Howard Theatre related interactions with Duke, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday, and others so I was anxious to finally get a look for myself and enjoy the historic space that he held so many fond memories of.

From the Washington Post...
Built in 1910, it was the first legitimate theater in the country open to African Americans. The Howard Theatre helped make Washington the early cultural capital of black America. Over 60 years, virtually every top African American entertainer performed on its stage, including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, the Drifters, Ruth Brown, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ike & Tina Turner. 
Going to the Howard at Seventh & T in the District’s Shaw neighborhood was a part of growing up for generations of Washingtonians, some of whom went on to achieve fame of their own. Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun said he got his doctorate in black music there. One of its ragtime musicians taught Billy Taylor to play piano. After Billy Eckstine won several amateur night contests at the Howard, theater manager Shep Allen told the teenager he was a professional, lent him a tuxedo and booked him to do a show. Shirley Horn said a show she saw there made her switch from classical piano to jazz. Pearl Bailey danced in the chorus line while taking voice lessons. And Duke Ellington often won the theater’s band contests with his first quintet, the Duke’s Serenaders.
Since the theatre was renovated (not restored) the entire interior is modern with few if any decorative elements from days gone by.  Nonetheless, the renovation was very nicely done and it's a great place to enjoy a performance and dinner. 

Tinariwen was excellent. If you're not familiar with them check out this video from the 2010 World Cup...


And oddly, a guy sat was seated at our table with whom we had a good conversation. We couldn't quite place him but once home we figured it out...


No comments:


Related Posts