The Centralia Cultural
Society has been serving the Centralia area since 1961. It's mission
is to connect arts with the community and the community with the
arts. We do this with our four member groups: Little Theatre Players,
Choral Society, Philharmonic Orchestra, and Palette & Brush
Club. Our membership consists of over 600 volunteers of the four
groups and 350 patrons who provide financial support.
Centralia, IL. (Population 14,000) is located in Southern Illinois
and the nearest metropolitan area is St. Louis (approximately 70
miles to the west.) The average income of the residents of this
area ($22,000) restricts their access to the arts of a metropolitan
area. In 1971 the
Society constructed an Arts Center.
us to the History of 1966--1968 the Years
of Expansion- as written by Virginia Hailey
The activities of 1966 began on March 19-20 when a children's play
"Let's Go to the Moon," was staged in the Centralia H.S.
Auditorium. Anne Duncan, a newcomer, directed it with assistance
from Jeanne Jones and Debbie De Perrieu. "Brigadoon" was
the spring musical of 1966. Robert Cover, Larry Fortney and J.T.
Alexander were again the directors for this well received April
event. Though area artists had held exhibits for a number of years,
the Palette & Brush Club was not formed until May 4, 1966. It
became the fourth segment of the Centralia Cultural Society. Neil
Puffer and Marion Veltman had successfully formed a group of local
artists into an organization for those interested in painting and
learning from others a few months previously. This became the nucleus
for the Palette & Brush Club. The thirty-three members of the
group established the custom of holding two Art Fairs each year.
The spring Fair was open to anyone to exhibit works of creative
and artistic interest. The Fall Fair was planned to be held in conjunction
with the Halloween activities.
Later, in 1966, Don Ross, was brought to Centralia to conduct two
classes in painting one day each week. The group also held "paint-in-sessions"
each Thursday night.
"Music Under the Stars", featuring the Orchestra and chorus,
was again held in June.
In August, Jeanne Jones assisted a group of high school and college
age young people with the production of "Tomboy Wonder."
The P & B Club sponsored an Art Fair on Oct. 21-23, the same
weekend as "Tom Sawyer, a children's play was directed by Ann
The sixth annual Candlelight Christmas Concert was held on Dec.
4, 1966. This year the orchestra, chorus, and children's groups
were joined by the Salem Community Chorus. The orchestra was accompanied
by a group of seven bell-ringers from the First Christian Church.
The orchestra had 29 members, the chorus had 60 voices. Forty-eight
patrons were listed on the back cover of the program.
In 1967, the Palette & Brush Club began the year's activities.
They held running exhibits of ten selected paintings at both the
City Hall and the Centralia Public Library throughout the early
months of the year.
The Fourth Musical, "The Red Mill," was presented on April
14, 15, 22, and 23. Robert Cover, Larry Fortney, and J. T. Alexander
were again in charge of production.
The first Children's workshop was held from July 24 to August 4.
Children who participated also auditioned for "Hansel &
Gretel". They play was produced on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, under
the direction of jeanne Jones.
At the annual meeting, Dr. Max Hirschfeld was elected the fourth
President of the Society. If the three preceding him had had the
task of organization and establishing traditions, his task was to
be one of fund raising and finding a permanent home for the Centralia
Cultural Society. However, this gargantuan project was to extend
over a period of the next four years.
Once again, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choral Society each
gave two separate concerts in addition to the June "Music Under
the Stars" treat.
The Candlelight Christmas Concert under the direction of J.T. Alexander
brought a close to 1967's activities.
The year 1968 provided the same high quality entertainment as the
preceding years had. "Music Man" was selected as the April
musical. In addition to the established directors, a new choreographer,
Joan Moore, was added to the staff.
Sara Schnake helped the children produce "Puss N' Boots"
in September. In November, Dr. Kenneth McCall directed "If
a Man Answers.".
The Art department sponsored a tri-city Art Fair in November at
the Centralia American Legion Hall. Artists from Centralia, Mt.
Vernon, and Vandalia participated, bring with them large crowds
from their home communities to view their work.
"Music Under the Stars", featuring the Centralia Philharmonic
Orchestra and the Centralia Choral Society, was held at Foundation
Park in September. These two groups also had given individual concerts
at other times during the year.
One other group of very talented musicians had joined the other
performers in Centralia by this time. In January, the Suzuki violinists
had been organized by Gladys Ober and Theresa Stephens. Sixteen
children, ranging in age from 5 to 9 were trained by the Suzuki
Method, a system of learning to play the violin before learning
to read music.
The group made their debut on the first Saturday in December when
they provided entertainment at the annual Christmas banquet for
employees of Kaskaskia College and their spouses.
Edith Boston and Rose Marie Malan were program coordinators for
the eighth annual Christmas Candlelight Concert. In addition to
the traditional performing groups, a segment of the program featured
the new Suzuki violinists.
A feature article in the Centralia Evening Sentinel introduced the
many newcomers to the Choral Society. One of the newcomers, Hubert
Norville, served as baritone soloist in the 1968 performance. Norville
was at that time a professor of voice at James Millikin University
in Decatur. He also served the University as Artistic Director for
Opera and Musical Productions.
Norville had sung in Broadway shows and had been the lead singer
in a London production of "Fiddler on the Roof".
Other newcomers to the Choral Society that year were LaVerne Poninski,
Rozella Barr, Gloria Andrus, Ellen Mohr, and Elaine Chapman. New
male vocalists were Jerry Sanders, Rev. Edward Anderson, Mike Frazier,
John Bryant, John Lowey, Dale Hixenbaugh, and Robert Wesner.
The Philharmonic Orchestra also had several new members who were
performing for the very first time at the Christmas Concert. William
Ryenolds, Don Beaty, Sydney Kelly, J.R. Murphy, Annette Cortelyou,
Kathryn Sue Kornhorst, Julie Brennan, and Norman Sinclair.
A colorful brochure was also inserted in the program booklets telling
of the urgent need the Cultural Society had for its own building.
The brochure also stated that a financial drive to raise the necessary
funds would begin in 1969.
(To be continued.)