By: Stacy Keith
“Stunning” “A standing ovation from California” “The Plains are alive with the sound of music” are just a few of the accolades received by Christopher J. Oglesby after the stellar performance on Friday November 12 of the world premiere of “Fire in the Water; Earth in the Air: A Symphony of Songs” by the incomparable Hannah Jackson, D. J. Sparr (musician and composer) and Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. It is not often that a town witnesses the premier of a new and original piece of music about itself and it truly did not disappoint anyone including the inspiration behind the composition: Christopher J. Oglesby.
I caught back up with Christopher the week after the concert to chat not only about his reflections on the performance, but also his impressions of the Lubbock arts community of today. Christopher moved away from Lubbock in 1992 after graduating from Texas Tech University Law School. He grew up here with his mother being dear friends with Ballet Lubbock Founder Suzanne Aker. Christopher reflected that he could remember “Nutcracker” costumes being housed in their home between seasons. So, he grew up close to the arts and music scene in Lubbock and reflected on many good times spent with musicians enjoying the live music culture Lubbock has always been famous for.
In coming back for his own incredible performance and to exhibit his artwork, this author and artist jumped feet first into the 2021 Lubbock arts arena and I wanted to see what he thought. His initial response was that it was a rich and supportive artist culture. It was the first time he had visited the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, and he was blown away. “From the food at Rave On to the performance hall, the venue is absolutely the cornerstone of the Downtown culture scene,” Oglesby said.
Christopher also had incredible reviews for the other arts venues he visited which included the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra building, LHUCA, CASP, Unity in Glass, and Grey Edges Gallery. He commented “It was like being in New York City, we stayed at a hotel downtown and did much of our visit on foot.”
Christopher and dear friends Larry and Heidi Simmons (Lubbock art supporters, artists, and patrons) worked with Grey Edges Gallery owner Kelly Reyna to utilize her space for Christopher’s visual art exhibit during First Friday Art Trail the week before the symphony. He reflected how very much it meant to him to have other Lubbock artists, like James W. Johnson, pop in to see his artwork with well wishes while Johnson had his own display up that night at another venue. Christopher and his wife Pearly (pictured), also visited other spots including Dirks (he remembers Dirk West and the TV show he did to teach young people how to draw) and the Texas Tech University System Public Art Collection and the Southwest Collection.
And what about Lubbock’s live music offerings? How has that changed since 1992? Christopher reflected that it’s always been there, but the emergence of such a richness of songwriters and some venues being known for that seems more pronounced today. He gave a nod to the exemplary commercial music programs at Texas Tech University and South Plains College for their incredible teaching processes. Of course, the Blue Light Live is the launching stage for many songwriters of today through hosting competitions for musicians to hone their craft – Christopher shared that the Blue Light seems even more center stage now in Lubbock for this unique niche.
He commented that he really “felt the spirit of friendship and love among all the artists and venues” he encountered during his week in Lubbock. We’re really glad – there’s no doubt that Lubbock is a very special place for both resident artists and those who visit and so glad the Hub City didn’t disappoint.
So what’s next for this amazing composition inspired by Lubbock and the words found in Christopher’s book “Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music”? There are recording plans in progress, and we hope that it will be available in the near future for us to enjoy and be inspired by.
Perhaps my favorite comment in my conversation with Christopher about his reflections of the arts and culture of Lubbock was when he referred to the Cultural District as a “golden circle” of the city. I couldn’t agree more.