Though Carl Anderson lived most of his life outside of Lynchburg, he still considered the city to be his home and made regular visits, both to his family and as a performer. Anderson returned to Lynchburg annually throughout the late 1990s. On December 6, 1997, he performed a Christmas concert accompanied by an orchestra and choir featuring many local instrumentalists and vocalists. In 1998, the City of Lynchburg recognized Anderson’s lifetime of achievements and honored him with the key to the city. In 1999, Anderson performed an open air concert at the City Market. Little did he know that this would be one of his last performances in the city before his death in 2004.
Even after his death, Anderson’s influence can still be felt in the Lynchburg arts scene. On May 15, 2005, Dunbar renamed its auditorium the Carl Anderson Performing Arts Auditorium in his honor. Ted Neeley, renowned for his portrayal of Jesus opposite of Anderson’s Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, came to Lynchburg in March of 2013. Not only did Neeley’s band (Ted Neeley and The Little Big Band) perform a concert at Dunbar, but he also held a master class with the school’s eighth grade drama class.
Neeley working with Dunbar Middle School’s eighth grade drama class (Photo by Jill Nance, courtesy of The News & Advance)
In between working with students, Neeley was interviewed by the News and Advance and spoke about his long-time friendship with Anderson. The paper quoted him as saying “We all loved Carl so much…when we heard about the Dunbar school and [how] the auditorium [is] his namesake, so to speak, I wanted to come down and see if we couldn’t help out in some way.” As did so many others, Carl Anderson recognized the potential of Downtown Lynchburg and worked to bring attention and resources to its revitalization, especially that of The Academy of Fine Arts where a memorial fund was set up in his honor.
Today, the local arts and music scene here in Lynchburg is thriving. Theater companies such as Wolfbane Productions, Endstation Theatre Company, and several others are active and producing professional quality musical theater right here in our community.
The Academy has once again opened its doors and will be the host of Endstation’s production of Ring of Fire this summer. Opera on the James continues to make classic works such as Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro available right here in Downtown. The Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra puts on themed concerts, such as the recent The Power of Music: Liszt, Beethoven and Gershwin and upcoming Young Artists at an Exhibition, throughout the year. As is evident at any one of these group’s performances, Lynchburg continues to produce, nurture and showcase musical talent like that of the late great Carl Anderson. Anderson would no doubt be proud of all of these amazing opportunities in musical theater and other genres that are available right on our doorstep. I have no doubt that he would have encouraged you as I am now to support his successors in whatever way you can, but especially by attending these plays and concerts, for there is no production without an audience.
To find out more about the local arts groups mentioned and their current performance seasons, check out the links below:
Wolfbane Productions - http://www.wolfbane.org/
Endstation Theatre Company - http://endstationtheatre.org/
The Academy of Fine Arts - http://www.academyfinearts.com/
Opera on the James - http://www.operaonthejames.org/
Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra - http://www.lynchburgsymphony.org/
By Holly Phelps, Staff
Lynchburg Museum System