By Bonita James
Mozart and Bartlesville.
I wasn’t sure what those two had in common until I was assigned to cover the 32nd annual OK Mozart International Music Festival for Preview Magazine. After the interview, I wanted to go! The fest was June 11-18, so we decided to make a day trip on the last day of the fest. The plan was to catch a couple acts, check out this small Oklahoma City, and wrap up with the grand finale performed by the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra.
For the first 30 years of the festival, Bartlesville music halls were filled with music from New York City artists. Since 2014, OK Mozart started a shift to showcase the caliber of Oklahoma artists of classical, blues, and jazz while keeping tight with their NYC roots.
Bartlesville is roughly a 53 minute drive from Tulsa. Per tradition, we called in an order to Blue Moon in Brookside and took our breakfast on the road.
First on the agenda was a guided tour of the Price Tower Arts Center, designed by the eccentric 1920’s architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I have an appreciation for FLW. I always thought his houses were cool. My favorite FLW house was the ‘59 Fallingwater home in Pennsylvania. I have an interesting family tie with FLW architecture. My sister and her husband in were married at the campus FLW designed, Florida Southern College. My brother-in-law later designed the McKay Archives Center, which had to compliment the adjacent FLW building. Neither of these ties prepared me for what I was about it experience in Bartlesville, OK.
PRICE TOWER: THINK OF A PINE TREE?
FLW sought to bring nature into his structures, and the Price Tower, designed in the 20’s and completed in the late 50’s, is constructed with internal columns being the framework and the rooms “branching out.” As pine trees tend to do, the top was smaller than the base.
In my opinion, it did the opposite of inviting nature in. Balcony views are blocked by triangular barriers rising above eye-level. Nature is more forgiving by way of curvature and providing room to move. Not a curve or 90 degree angle is in sight. But, I will say the tour is worth it. I won’t give it all away here, but there is genius in his design to designate the purpose of rooms and how natural light is brought into the space.
As one of ten buildings designed by FLW on the National Register of Historic Places, this building is rich with Oklahoma history and characters, namely Wright, Price, and Goff.
Our guide put heart into the tour, and we rode the tiniest elevator which exists on this Earth with him. Claustrophobes beware! Price Tower tours are set at designated times, Tuesday-Saturday. We were thrilled to see a Charles M. Schulz exhibition, Peanuts: Naturally, running now through October 9. The exhibition is included in tour admission.
CHOCOLATE, BEER, & MIGHTY FINE FOLKS
Warned of being packed at Frank & Lola’s, we opted to check out The Painted Horse before our next OK Mozart performance. Before going there, though, we were swayed by the small-town chocolate shop next door. We hopped into Omega Chocolate for a break from the heat. Chocolate covered cherries are a weakness. We each picked out two chocolates and paired them with beer at the Painted Horse bar. Now, let me just say when you visit Painted Horse, it is a must that you get an order of the Firecracker Shrimp. Spicy, crunchy, and giant shrimp is all you need to know. So good.
As many towns in Oklahoma, not everything is open on Saturday. We took in the architecture of downtown and learned some history at Johnstone Park. Apparently cannons were used to shoot holes into oil storage tanks when they caught fire. The first commercial oil well in the state was drilled there on site. There is a Kiddie Park with miniature ferris wheel and roller coaster, a skate park, and tennis courts.
Back at the fest, we took in some cool creations featured in the Moz-ART gallery and the Tulsa Girls Art School gallery. TGAS students displayed and sold their artwork throughout the week. Every painting sold goes directly to the artist’s account, and it doesn’t stop there. “Not only do the young artists at TGAS display amazing talent; the program is a model for other areas in the state and it will benefit the region to discover the art as well as the business model that TGAS represents,” Rolfson said.
We bebopped to some barbershop music, which turns out has an incredibly long and connected history with Bartlesville. The Founders Chorus and Lady Barbershop were not only great to listen to but were fun to watch. Next up was Trio Antique, who performed wonderful classical compositions.
The Tulsa Symphony didn’t start until later in the evening, so it was time for another beer break. The people at The Painted Horse were so awesome and nice, we decided to go back for dinner, but not without stopping at Omega to say hi to our new friends and pick up one more chocolate covered cherry.
THE GRAND FINALE
The OK Mozart grand finale was a captivating performance called A Return Voyage from Europe to the Americas featuring Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Anne-Marie McDermott. There is something about bringing all instruments, individual in their own right, blending together to become one incredible work of art.
Bartlesville is rich with music throughout the year with venues like the newly-constructed Ambler Hall, designed to host intimate experience with chamber music. The Bartlesville Community Center main music hall and performance center captures art from Broadway to ballet. Interesting note: the building was designed to compliment while contrasting the Price Tower.
Although our trip to Bartlesville was short, we learned this town has a big heart. It would be fun to plan a short stay-cation to check out the sites, stay at the hotel in the Price Tower, and take in some unique history.