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Are you free for a concert date?

Carlos Prieto conducts the LPO at St. Louis Cathedral Wednesday.

There’s another musical treat on the New Orleans menu this week. And making it twice as sweet is the fact that it’s free, thanks to generous sponsors.

“Becoming American: The Musical Journey,” a free concert of regional music through the years, is being presented Jan. 25 by The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The time is 7:30 p.m. and the place is St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.

Get there early to make sure you get a seat. Or you can catch a live Internet streaming of the performance on the LPO web site, thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation, in partnership with Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Luckily for us, such musical desserts are abundant in the New Orleans area. Earlier this month, four “Divas of Jazz” – Germaine Bazzle, Betty Shirley, Stephanie Jordan and Rene Marie – thrilled an audience at Lawless Memorial Chapel of Dillard University. This freebie was presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, with co-sponsorship by WWOZ radio station and Dillard.

Internationally acclaimed Rene Marie was the headliner, but when the three heroines of Crescent City jazz – Bazzle, Shirley and Jordan – joined, after their individual sets, for a three-part version of “Route 66,” it was a priceless moment to remember.

And I can’t forget the performance of Anais St. John, another homegrown jazz vocalist, at the Freret Market some months ago, when she and her band treated the crowd to an equivalent of her nightclub act. St. John’s “Hip Shakin Mama” number had hips of all ages shaking in the aisles.

And so it goes at so many festivals around the area and throughout the state: Big names star in shows that are free to the public. I repeat: Luckily for us.

Wednesday’s free LPO concert “will trace the evolution of regional musical tastes from the early 19th century to the modern age,” says the co-presenting Collection’s website ( “An affinity for European masters, including familiar names like Beethoven and Bellini, melded with Caribbean and African influences over time to introduce a brand-new style: jazz.”

Featured performers will include LPO principal conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, classical pianist Peter Collins, jazz pianist James Dapogny, local anchor Angela Hill as narrator, St. Louis Cathedral young-artist-in-residence and organist Thomas Ospital, and soprano Alissa Rowe.

The project is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Entergy, and Muriel’s Jackson Square.

Mary Lou Atkinson offers observations on the art of living in New Orleans whenever the spirit moves her, for NolaVie. For more information on NolaVie, visit


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