Cultural Shorts

Discussions about the artistic impulse and creative drive, these interviews and features bring a local focus on the global art community of artists, authors and musicians.

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Having made his mark on both America's Got Talent and America's Got Talent: Champions, Piff The Magic Dragon has become one of the hottest acts in Las Vegas, with a residency at the Flamingo Casino at the newly renamed Piff The Magic Dragon Theatre. The run has recently been extended due to popular demand.

That hasn't slowed the dragon down. Boasting a show that is "50 percent magic, 50 percent comedy and 100 percent dragon," Piff is now embarking on a tour of the U.S. and Canada, dubbed The Lucky Dragon.

Carla Eckels / KMUW

Four young orchestra students, hand-picked by Wichita's North High School, are tuning up their classical instruments to play in one of the last places you'd expect to see a violin: Beatles vs. Stones, A Musical Showdown. The touring "battle of the bands" concert on Tuesday in downtown Wichita will feature familiar songs from two mega-star English rock bands.

"It's kind of like the concert that never was," says North High band and orchestra director Stephanie Byers, who has been teaching students for nearly 30 years. "We never ever saw the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the same venue."

Max Crace

Released in 1990, Ah Via Musicom served as Texas guitarist Eric Johnson's breakthrough album, spawning four singles, three of which became inescapable on rock radio in subsequent years. The tune "Cliffs of Dover" earned Johnson a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1992. Johnson toured incessantly behind the recording and landed a coveted spot opening for legendary Canadian band Rush during the touring cycle.

James Coreas

Now in his mid-20s, Oklahoma native Parker Millsap has four albums to his credit, including the acclaimed 2016 release, The Very Last Day, and his latest, Other Arrangements. Blending elements of traditional American songwriting with soul, gospel and garage rock, Millsap's music remains incredibly cohesive despite the disparate styles he draws from.

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Between 2005 and 2015, Abandon Kansas recorded a series of acclaimed EPs and LPs while maintaining a nonstop touring schedule. The group quietly folded the same year it released its third full-length album, alligator, as the members pursued a variety of other musical and personal pursuits.

Abandon Kansas will play its first reunion show on Friday, Dec. 28, at Wave on a bill that also includes Old News, Me Like Bees and Faintheart. The show is open to all ages and begins at 5 p.m.

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The Pre-Existing Conniptions will perform at the Ellis Street Moto, 310 S. Ellis, on Friday, Dec. 21, on a bill that includes High Plains Drifter and Blood Tide. The bill also will feature a solo set from Conniptions cellist/vocalist Roni Lowry Worcester. The Pre-Existing Conniptions is rounded out by Evan Ogborn (banjo, vocals), Alana Johns (bass) and Julian Urrego (drums).

How did The Pre-Existing Conniptions first come into being?

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Veteran Celtic music act Cherish The Ladies brings its Christmas show to Wichita's Orpheum Theatre Sunday, Dec. 16. The group has recorded three holiday LPs to date, the latest being Christmas In Ireland. The evening features traditional Christmas songs such as "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" in unique arrangements.

The Wichita Symphony will present Oz in Concert on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Century II Concert Hall. The presentation will feature a live orchestral accompaniment to the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz. The digitally restored film will be shown on a screen hung above the orchestra. Peter Bay will serve as guest conductor for the event.

Clay McBride

Lewis Black's "The Joke's On Us" tour arrives at Wichita's Orpheum Theatre on Friday. Black is known for a unique brand of observational humor that covers a wide range of topics, including politics and social trends. Though his humor is often based in anger, it often intersects with a deep empathy for others.

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The Dennis Family is gearing up for its 35th annual Christmas concert in Wichita. The nine siblings provide holiday cheer every year through song and support of a local charity.

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