by Musician 1st Class Jennifer Stothoff
Here is a trivia question for all of the musical theater enthusiasts out there. Name the musical in which the local townsfolk mention Keokuk, Iowa, in the final refrain of a song? Are you stumped? Why don’t you ponder your answer while you read this delightful and informative blog entry. I will provide the answer at the end. No peeking!
For you history buffs who might be reading, here is an interesting fact about the city. Keokuk is home to one of 12 national cemeteries in the country. Established in 1862, it was the first national cemetery west of the Mississippi River, and the only one of its kind in Iowa.
You may have already guessed that the Sea Chanters 11th day on tour was spent in Keokuk, Iowa. We traveled from Moline, Ill., to this small town where we were scheduled to perform in the intimate Keokuk Grand Theater. This Art Deco style theater has quite a past, and the locals are very proud that it is still a part of their community. The Keokuk Opera house was built on this site in 1880, but it suffered devastating damage when a fire broke out after a performance on Dec. 7, 1923. It wasn’t until Jan. 27, 1925, that the building was reopened as the Keokuk Grand Theater, after a leading businessman in the area funded a rebuilding project. However, due to dwindling interest in live entertainment, and lack of necessary funding, the theater closed its doors several times between 1965 and 1987. Fortunately, the local community rallied and has worked hard to preserve this Keokuk treasure for future generations to enjoy.
It was in this setting that we staged our 10th concert, and the audience of 700 cheered and sang along with a number of our musical selections. I had the pleasure of meeting and greeting our guests after the concert, and although everyone raved about our performance, one gentleman shook my hand and told me that it was the most enjoyable evening he had ever had. Now THAT is a compliment of the highest degree, if you ask me! We even had a recruiter in our audience. I wonder if he had any takers!
We arrived back at our hotel and were greeted with a table of muffins, fruit, and warm cookies, compliments of the hotel staff at the Hampton Inn. As I’ve said before, we LOVE cookies!!!!
Enough about cookies! Are you ready for the answer to my trivia question? I must say that after spending an evening with some very sweet Iowans, I would have to agree with lyrics from Meredith Willson’s, "The Music Man." “You ought to give Iowa a try!”