Monday, May 18, 2009

Henry Panion and Kurt Carr Gets $75,000 from BCC

Love come quick/Love come in a hurry/There are thieves
in the temple tonight. - Prince, "Thieves in the Temple"
from the SIGN O' THE TIMES album (1989)

Dr. Henry Panion III, who still serves as a professor and department head in music at the University of Birmingham (UAB), has played with a number of musical greats ranging from pop to R&B to gospel. And when he's not waving his baton over a super symphony, he's orchestrating music set to another tune through his state-of-the-art music studio Audiostate 55 Entertainment, located in the heart of Birmingham, Ala. The forthcoming project from American Idol winner Ruben Studdard even boasts post-production credits at the newly-developed studio. So of course, it makes sense for the city of Birmingham, currently run by Mayor Larry Langford, to invest in Panion's future of music. And they did. Strangely, the investment smells like it went way beyond the expected limit.

In Black & White (Issue Number 369, May 14), a popular local paper, they recalled some of the major requests made for funding approved by the Birmingham City Council. On April 14, Item 42 points to a colossal offering of $75,000 to Audiostate 55 Entertainment to "provide two performances featuring Kurt Carr, Kurt Carr Singers, and a 150-voice choir made up of singers from Birmingham (actually it was a church choir named Faith Chapel Christian Center Choir that provided the background singing) on May 1 and 2, 2009." The event in question was the highly-publicized Gospel Goes Classical II event held at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center; located on the campus of the University of Birmingham (UAB).

As the report unfolds, further logistics concerning the allotted donation include "necessary arrangements for the concert performances, including transportation, provide recognition of the City's sponsorship for events, and shall involve Birmingham's student-age citizens at entry level behind-the-scenes creative, technical and marketing activities."

With the global economy reaching a nasty sour note in today's news headlines and the city of Birmingham facing its own share of grim reports including an upcoming trial for the embattled mayor later on this year, $75,000 for an event so small smells suspicious. Considering Kurt Carr's consistent visits to the city over the last couple of years by playing at the annual City Stages festival in 2007 and 2006 and recently hosting a music workshop at a local church earlier this year, there is no way possible that Kurt Carr and his ensemble needed $75,000 for their performances.

If this was a non-profit organization, things would have been a bit more understandable. But to better interpret this sketchy scenario, you also have to question why was this event a ticketed event. Tickets were $25-$45 dollars, according to the Birmingham News. The event was also recorded, like its predecessor Gospel Goes Classical, and will hopefully be released as an album if he can reach a contract agreement with the artists and their respected labels of whom participated. A CD amounts to record sales and profits, which according to Panion, is "like icing on the cake."

Icing on the cake? Hmmm, smells like a party.

In 2007, Panion released Gospel Goes Classical, featuring performances from Juanita Bynum and Jonathan Butler, which went on to become a best-seller on both the gospel and classical charts.

Panion's intentions may be well, but it is hard to understand the scope of such a bewildering offering the size of $75,000. Surely Kurt Carr's honorarium doesn't come close to $10,000...maybe $2,000. So where did all that money go? You do the math.

Guess Prince was right. It made sense in 1989, and it makes sense in 2009....there are indeed "thieves in the temple tonight."

UAB's Panion follows up popular concert that produced best-selling CD [Birmingham News]

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