We are so excited Patti LaBelle is headlining our Gala Event on October 11. We are celebrating by serving up to you something sweet.

LaBelle is a not only the “godmother of soul,” but she is an actress, entrepreneur, author and … our girl can cook, too!

A celebrated author, LaBelle has written six books: Don’t Block the Blessings, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, Patti’s Pearls, Patti LaBelle’s Lite Cuisine, Recipes for the Good Life and Desserts LaBelle. As an entrepreneur, she launched Patti’s Good Life, a food and lifestyle brand that features a variety of frozen comfort foods, breakfast items and desserts, including her world-famous sweet potato pie.

This is the perfect time of year to tuck into this songstress’ famous pie.

This recipe makes a light-textured pie, not too sweet and with a nice spice flavor, with a flaky and tender crust. In LaBelle's 1999 cookbook, she called this Norma's Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pie. "Black-bottom" is a reference to the technique of baking the crust first with a little brown sugar on it

8-10 servings; makes one 9-inch pie





For the crust: Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the shortening. Use a fork or a pastry blender to cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-size bits.

Stirring with the fork, gradually add enough of the water until the mixture clumps together (you might need more or less water). Gather up the dough and press it into a thick disk. If desired, wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, and as long as three days.

Lightly flour a work surface. Place the chilled dough on it; roll out to a round that's 13 inches across. Fold the dough in half.

Transfer to the pie plate; gently unfold the dough to fit into it. Trim the dough as needed to leave a 1-inch overhang. (Bake or reserve the scraps for another use.)

Fold the dough under itself so the edge of the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. Flute the dough around the edge of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you start the filling (and up to 1 hour).

For the filling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, then the sweet potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium; cook until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Drain the sweet potatoes, letting them fall into a colander. Run under cold water until cool enough to handle. Discard the skins; transfer the cooked sweet potatoes to a mixing bowl. Use a hand-held electric mixer to blend until creamy and smooth. You'll need 3 cups for the filling; scoop out the remainder and reserve for another use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Uncover the pie shell; brush the interior with the 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of brown sugar over the bottom of the pie shell. Par-bake until the crust is set and just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. (If the pie shell puffs, do not prick it.) Let it cool.

Meanwhile, add the 7 tablespoons of melted butter, brown sugar, the granulated sugar, eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pureed sweet potatoes. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Pour into the par-baked pie shell, smoothing the surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake (middle rack) until a knife inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean yet the filling still jiggles a bit, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Adapted from LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, by Patti LaBelle (Clarkson Potter, 1999).

Purchase tickets for An Evening with Patti LaBelle at SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.

Sinfonia Gulf Coast has a stellar 2022-2023 season line up. From world-renowned vocalists and violinists to Broadway’s brightest stars, Beethoven musically mashed with rock bands. Curating a season that “sings” is an artform and Sinfonia Music & Artistic Director Demetrius Fuller is pitch perfect for the 17th year. With celebrity appearances, classical connections and innovative Northwest Florida debuts, this year’s offerings redefine the symphony experience and offer something for everyone.

ZW: Jeremy Jordan is the Sinfonia Cabaret offering at Seagar’s (Sept. 15). Why did you invite this particular performer to wow us?

DF: Jeremy is really a multifaceted artist. He got his start on Broadway in the original cast of Newsies, which is a wonderful show. He is a Tony and Grammy nominated artist, but more recently, he's done a lot of film and drama. Most recently with Kerry Washington in a play on Broadway, and in the hit TV show Supergirl. He's sort of a “triple threat” — he can sing, act and dance. Plus, he's just an amazing artist. He transcends all of the music genres: classical, Broadway and pop. Jeremy is a talented artist, a great musician and a nice person. I think people will really love him.

ZW: October 11 is the highly anticipated Gala Event with the incomparable Patti LaBelle. Do tell us more.

DF: Who doesn't know Patti LaBelle? And to know her is to like her. To bring “the godmother of soul” to the stage with her 60 years in the business is a feather in our cap and an absolute thrill. She's just as nice as she could be, and she's simply incomparable. That's really the only word. There is nobody like Patti LaBelle. We're honored to be able to present her and her whole band on the Sinfonia stage. She joins our special exclusive Sinfonia sorority joining Vanessa Williams, Roberta Flack, Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters.

ZW: What motivated you to create the Gala Event experience? Bernadette Peters was a showstopper for Sinfonia’s inaugural season and set at a very high bar. What prompted you stage a celebrity-studded Gala Event in a major hall like the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center?

DF: It's a standalone event. It really has separated Sinfonia from anything else, not only in our community but along the Gulf coast, because none of the other regional orchestras bring in the caliber of artists that Sinfonia does. Sinfonia is what I call one-stop symphony shopping. It runs the gamut —we have the gala, which is a pinnacle event, the full orchestra, Pops, chamber orchestra, chamber music, education programs, non-orchestra events, like the Cabaret and Crescendo! and wine events. So, the Gala Event really is just part of the puzzle piece that is sort of the angel on the Christmas tree, so to speak.

ZW: On October 22 the full orchestra will accompany the full film showing of the 1931 horror film based on Mary Shelley’s book, The Bride of Frankenstein. This is a different experience than a typical concert.

DF: The Bride of Frankenstein has one of the most amazing orchestral scores in film history. It's full orchestra, so we’ll have 65 to 70 musicians on stage in the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation’s Cultural Arts Village al fresco just before Halloween. It’s about 90 minutes. It will be fun.

ZW: December 9 we have a popular offering that is always changing. Holiday Pops is a tradition, but you always put a twist on it.

DF: Yes, this year, we “doowopify” our Holiday Pops with the Doo Wop Project. This is a group of guys who were originals in the Jersey Boys off Broadway. Doo Wop is just a great art form. It is as much an American musical staple as jazz, and rock and roll. These guys take a piece of music and make it their own. They will perform everybody's favorite holiday tunes but will also take pop songs and a handful ofpopular tunes and “doowopify” them. They will perform a wide gamut of songs that people from all age groups are going to know. Plus, the full orchestra will play favorites like Stille Nacht and more, so it will be a great seasonal concert.

ZW: January 21 we shake off the winter blues with Get Happy and celebrate the centennial of Judy Garland’s birth.

DF: Who doesn't love the legend, Judy Garland? This is a great production because it showcases the string section of the orchestra and basically a jazz band along with superstar vocalist Jessica Vosk. She performed Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. If you've heard her sing, you know she has amazing pipes, and is just a powerhouse. You will feel as though you are seeing Judy Garland singing live with the orchestra. There’s a multimedia component that showcases vintage footage of The Judy Garland Show with tons of outtakes with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra that make an entertaining trip down memory lane. It will be a fun concert to experience because we are creating aclubby, dinner theater atmosphere with café tables. You can do that or opt for regular seating.

ZW: March 11 is the Classical Connections concert featuring violinist Geneva Lewis. Tell us about her.

DF: Classical Connections is the “meat and potatoes” classical portion of what Sinfonia does and Geneva Lewis is an extraordinary young talented violinist. She's the winner of the 2020 Concert Artist Guild annual competition and a recipient of a 2021 Avery Fisher career grant, which is a major award and a big deal in the classical music world. She's a remarkable artist and she's doing Mendelssohn's Concerto for Violin which is one of the staples of the violin repertoire. Her performance is one not to miss. She is going to working with the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra doing outreach in our local schools as well.

ZW: Capping the season (April 29) is Beethoven versus Coldplay. This sounds like another perfect example of how you are redefining the symphony experience. Tell us what people can expect.

DF: Beethoven is immortal. When you pair or mash Beethoven up with something on the pop scene, like Coldplay it's unexpected. For this concert, they’re not just playing a piece by Beethoven and a piece by Coldplay side by side. This is a melding, a mashup of the internal, interwoven musical notation with vocalists and it is remarkable. It's an incredible way to listen to and rethink how music is connected. Steve Hackman, the producer, is a brilliant musician, composer, and arranger. It’s totally unique, but it's accessible. How many people from the age of 15 don’t know Coldplay? So, again, we hope this innovative offering brings in some new faces.

ZW: At the heart of Sinfonia’s mission is music education. Tell us why.

DF: Our mission states succinctly that we “entertain, educate, inspire the community” and we aim to do that with everything we do. Education is the centerpiece of Sinfonia. It was founded not only for its entertainment value, but for the fact that Northwest Florida needed an organization that could be the proponent for arts education in schools, specifically music education. We all know arts education is on a continual decline in all public schools. We've been more fortunate here in Northwest Florida, compared to some areas but in many cases our Link Up program, which is a year-long curriculum, is sometimes the only arts education these students receive.

We have a String Quartet, a resident Brass Quintet, and a Woodwind Quintet in residence — all going out to schools and the community and providing outreach and community engagement.

This year, we are reintroducing the Paint the Music project, which is a great cross-genre program that includes both visual arts and the musical arts. Kids receive a recording of what they will ultimately hear live at a Sinfonia concert, and they visually interpret what they hear on to paper. We take their artwork and display it at a concert. (Look for the Paint the Music exhibit at Get Happy in January.) The following Monday, the kids will sit in the convention center to see Beethoven Lives Upstairs, a theatrical mini musical featuring actors and singers sharing the lifetime of Beethoven with more than 30 excerpts of his music.

ZW: Congratulations, this is indeed a stellar 17th season.

Purchase tickets for the 2022-2023 season online today at SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.

The gods of rock have answered our prayers. On Thursday, June 16 at 7 p.m. the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) will present The Music of Led Zeppelin featuring our own Sinfonia Gulf Coast, led by guest conductor/arranger Brent Havens, who scored this program to extend the listening experience of these beloved timeless rock tunes.

Performed by Sinfonia Gulf Coast and amplified with a full rock band featuring vocals by Randy Jackson, this MKAF Concert in the Village is sure to have “sheet blast power.”

Not that an evening of jamming to Led Zeppelin music needs any preparation, but … for fun, we have gathered 10 fun facts on the world’s greatest ‘70s rock band.

· In 1968, lead guitarist Jimmy Page initially rounded up Robert Plant (vocals), John Paul Jones (bass/keyboards), and John Bonham (drums) in part to fulfill a contractual obligation to play The Yardbirds tour dates in Scandinavia. Page had also wanted to form a supergroup for years, and he got it with the band that would become Led Zeppelin.

· The name is said to have come from a comment made by Keith Moon of The Who, who supposedly said the band would go down like a lead balloon.

· Their first album, Led Zeppelin, was released on January 12, 1969, and marked the beginning of the band that would come to dominate the 1970s.

· Frau Eva von Zeppelin, a direct descendant of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, demanded the group change their name, and got her wish on February 28, 1970, when the band performed as The Nobs in Copenhagen. Both popular and critical opinion favored the band's preferred name, and they were Led Zeppelin once more for their next show—and every show thereafter.

· Rock god Robert Plant actually aspired to become an accountant. Thankfully, that prayer was not answered.

· On July 26, 1977, Plant’s 5-year-old son, Karac, died from a stomach virus. The Led Zeppelin hit All of My Loveand Plant's solo hit I Believe are dedicated to Karac.

· In 2006, Hit Parader magazine named Robert Plant the "Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time." In 2009, he was voted "the greatest voice in rock" in a poll conducted by Planet Rock. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked Robert Plant the greatest of all lead singers.

· The band purchased an airplane called, The Starship, for $30,000 for a portion of their 1973 U.S. Tour. It was the first Boeing 720-022 ever built. It included a main cabin with seats and tables, a 30-foot couch, a bar with an electronic organ built into it, a TV set, a video cassette player, a den with a low couch and floor pillows, and a bedroom with a white fur bedspread and a shower room.

· Stairway to Heaven is arguably Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit.

· Both Whole Lotta Love and Stairway to Heaven deserve to be on the list of the best rock songs of all time, but claiming the top spot is surely Kashmir, the epitome of an epic, groundbreaking rock song.

Doors open at 6 p.m. The concert is at 7 p.m. Bring a blanket and chairs and enjoy dinner and drinks from food trucks and/or restaurant catering on site.

Become a MKAF member and enjoy savings on Concerts in the Village and other upcoming MKAF events. Details at MKAF.org.

Pop! Hear that? That is the sound of uncorking the summer season. Sinfonia Gulf Coast has long been known for “redefining” the traditional symphony experience. Sinfonia Goes Pops is the perfect time to gather with friends and family to enjoy a live orchestra music concert without any stuffy fuss. The “doors” to the Alys Beach Amphitheatre open at 6 p.m., and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. with a fireworks finale at 9 p.m.

Surely you are already planning on “popping” over to the coolest 30A concert of the season on Sunday, May 29. If not, here are 5 fabulous reasons why you should.

1. Live music is always a good idea. Live music at Alys Beach is a great idea. At this popular annual concert, you’ll enjoy an evening of pop culture favorites, Broadway’s best, movie soundtrack and light classics then segue to patriotic tunes as an exciting lead up to fireworks. Talk about fanfare!

2. Al fresco is the way to go in Florida. Bring a blanket or a low-back chair and take in the chic, chill Alys Beach amphitheater vibes. For your convenience, food and beverage is available for purchase on site. Perhaps the only thing prettier than the sound of Sinfonia Gulf Coast on a summer evening is the amazing architecture of this stunning community. Bring on the Alys Beach eye candy!

3. A free for all. With prices for gas, food and whatnot ticking up, it’s refreshing to enjoy a spectacular evening of professional live music — free!

4. Fireworks! A spectacular display of festive fireworks is such a fun way to kick off the summer season. They may be the finale to this concert, but you will be on your way to a sensational summer.

5. That’s a wrap. Send up the flares, pop the champagne, this fun annual concert tradition caps Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s sensational 16th season. Come celebrate with us, won’t you?

For more information on Sinfonia Goes Pops!, visit SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.

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4608 Opa-Locka Lane, Suite 100, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 460-8800
© 2022 - Sinfonia Gulf Coast. Website by Frances Roy Agency.

Join our email list

4608 Opa-Locka Lane, Suite 100, Destin, FL 32541
(850) 460-8800
© 2022 - Sinfonia Gulf Coast. Website by Frances Roy Agency.
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