The Brownwood Community Concert Association will have a final concert Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the Victory Life Church auditorium before dissolving.

The concert will feature The Purple Hulls, consisting of twin sisters Katy and Penny Clark. The twins are Kilgore natives who have been based in Nashville, Tenn., touring throughout the country. When their father became ill, they came back home to help on the Purple Hull Farms. 

The sisters are known for their unique sibling harmonies and acoustic-driven music, performing music that includes gospel, bluegrass and country.

A social hour with complimentary refreshments will begin at 6 p.m. in the church lobby, followed by the concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for youth ages 13-17. Children 12 and under will be admitted with adult ticket holders.

Money received will be used for the artists’ fees and our rent for the venue for the evening. 

The Brownwood Community Concert Association has experienced significant changes in the last three years. Membership has diminished for many reasons, and as a result, the association’s income has diminished. Its income has been further affected by the decrease in grants and donations from businesses.

Other aspects which have compounded the association’s difficulty has been the increase in the artists’ fees and requirements to supply meals, lodging and rental of instruments. 

While the association has sought to provide quality entertainment, the association can’t afford to continue. Many community concert associations throughout the country have dissolved. 

The association’s board of directors voted to have one last concert in October before dissolving.

 

A history of community concerts 

The history of Community Concerts parallels in many ways that of the past century. During the 1920' s radio, film and the phonograph gave millions of Americans their first taste of professional-quality performing arts.

There was a problem, though: while America's interest in great, live music was growing, the audiences to support such concerts were largely confined to major cities, while hundreds more cities had no concerts at all — it was too risky a business. It would be up to some group like the local ladies' musical club to try to bring some noted musical artist or group to their city, which first meant lining up some deep pockets to underwrite the cost.

Guarantors to often got stuck with meeting a deficit when attendance might rise or fall depending on the public's whims, the weather or competition from other events. 

Community concerts proved to be the solution to this problem. Community concerts started on a shoestring budget in Chicago in 1920, the brainchild of two music managers, Dema Harshbarger and Ward French.

It was an idea born of desperation. They were faced with declining concert dates for their artists as both small towns and larger cities were cutting back on presentations.

The idea that French and his associate came up with was disarmingly simple. They proposed to do away with such local financial risk by organizing a permanent concert association on a non-profit membership basis, raising funds through an intensive one week campaign.

Once the money was raised, artists would be engaged within the limits of the available funds. Sale of single admissions would be done away with and only members could attend the concerts. Thus was born the organized membership concert audience movement. This was the largest and most enduring network of performing arts presenters that has ever existed. Early artists included Vladimir Horowitz, Lawrence Tibbett, lascha Heifetz and Yehudi Menuhin. 

The idea blossomed and fostered cultural development on an unprecedented scale. Families who had been indifferent to the "highbrow" single concerts were attracted to a whole season with varied offerings at a reasonable price. A new appreciation for the performing arts, deeply rooted in community spirit, steadily developed across North America, contributing to the growth of local symphonies, theatres and dance companies.

The first year saw the new idea planted in 12 cities and by the end of the second year 40 cities in the Middle West had organized membership concert audiences. By 1928 the movement was organized in New York City as the Community Concert Association, with French as its president.

Although the stock market crash of 1929 threatened this brave new experiment in the arts, Community Concerts continued to grow. People were determined that economic hardship would not deprive them of beauty and meaning in their lives. The Concerts were a lifeline to humanity, sanity and normalcy.

Food for the soul was as important as food on the table. Minutes from Association meetings held in Dust Bowl towns refer to families who could not afford the fifty cents to attend the concert and were being carried by loans from neighbors or by the Association itself. 

In 1930 the nation's leading artist management organizations, Columbia Artists Management, Inc. and National Artist Service (representing a majority of the established musical artists and attractions) put the weight of their artistic and financial support behind Community Concerts. 

Despite the ravages of the Great Depression in those years, the organized concert membership movement rapidly expanded as artists could depend upon a network of cities with money in the bank to pay for the season's concerts even before contracts were signed. 

This meant their fees could be lowered as concert tours were expanded and the organized audience movement became a significant new artistic and cultural development for the nation. As the nation emerged from the traumas of the Depression and World War II, Community Concerts expanded rapidly.

Between 1945 and 1950, the total number of Community Concert Associations rose to an all time high of 1,008. Audiences enjoyed the talents of performers like Rudolph Serkin, Paul Robeson and the Von Trapp Family Singers. Concert Associations were formed in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and even briefly South America. 

Community concerts continued to adapt to change and successfully weathered many challenges. Faced with the advent of television, competing performing arts presenters and changing lifestyles, the total number of associations has declined from the remarkable figures of the early 1950's, but community concerts remain a vital force in the arts world today with close to 400 affiliate associations.

However, due to continuing lifestyle changes in the nation, higher costs of transportation for artists and artists fees, there are fewer community concert associations each year.

In the early years, community concerts programs contained names including Van Cliburn, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Alvin Alley Dance troupe, The London Symphony Orchestra with Andre Previn, Claudio Arrau, Leontyne Price and a wide and impressive variety of others.

Today, community concert associations are booking newcomers just starting out, young people from other countries breaking into the arts as well as those who have finished a career in the arts. The goal has been "to offer every man, woman and child in this country the opportunity to experience the magic of live performance by bringing artists and audiences together." 

In 1993, community concerts restructured its relationship with Columbia Artists Management Inc., it's longtime parent company, and was free to feature artists outside the CAMI roster and make its own artistic decisions. In 1999, Trawick Artist Management purchased the company and continued to provide national leadership until its demise in 2002.

The 2002-2003 season was the first that local Community Concert Associations operated independently of any national organization. There are several new national organizations that will provide the services that Trawick provided if the local Community Concert Associations wish to join them. Among those are Alliance Artists Management, CMI Entertainment, Inc., Little Revolation Artists, Live on Stage, Inc., and Shupp Artists Management.