The Three Arts League’s Run at Jordan

When I mentioned the Three Arts League in the post about renovating the Jordan High auditorium, it triggered thoughts about the League and what it meant to Columbus.  It was founded in 1927 and ended in 1975, according to Joe Mahan’s history Columbus: Georgia’s Fall Line “Trading Town.   

Arthur Rubenstein, "one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century," according to an article in Wikipedia. Photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1937.


The League did indeed bring some really big names to the Jordan stage for a number of years.  The best source I could find about that was  Mrs. Francis Virgina Norman,  better known as Virginia Norman, daughter of the late Mrs. A. Illges, better known as Virginia Illges.  She was president of the League from 1949 to 1967, according to Dr. Mahan.  He wrote, “For many years the scheduling, local arrangements, and general excellence of these performances were managed by Mrs. A. Illeges.”  

I asked Mrs. Norman if she could remember when the League first started using Jordan’s auditorium, and the names of some of the big acts.  This is what she sent me via email: 

“Dick, I’m not certain when the Three Arts concerts first were held at Jordan.  Apparently years and years ago they were at the Springer for a time, then at Columbus High, but, for as long as I can remember going to them, and that’s a long time, they were at Jordan auditorium until 1964, when the old Royal Theatre was renovated and reopened as the Three Arts Theatre. ” The League had to have started using Jordan before 1949 because I remember getting to see a few of the shows in that auditorium, and I graduated in 1948.   I was among the Jordan students  who served as ushers for the League shows and concerts.    

Mrs. Norman also said, “Jordan had excellent acoustics and the sound was wonderful, except now and then when someone forgot to turn off the bells that signaled the beginning and ending of classes –  an unexpected addition to the music!
“These are some of the major artists who performed at Jordan auditorium.   
“Symphonies (some more than once) – the Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Atlanta
“Operas – Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Rigoletto. Romeo and Juliet, La Traviata
“Ballets – Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre, Ballet Espagnole, Chicago Opera Ballet
“Pianists – Arthur Rubinstein, Jose Iturbi, Jorge Bolet, Gina Bachauer, Byron Janis, Leonard Pennario, Vronsky and Babin
“Violinists – Yehudi Menhuin, Zino Francescatti, Erica Morini, Tossy Spivakovsky
“Cellist Gregor Piatagorsky
“Classical guitarist Andres Segovia
“Singers – Rise Stevens, Lauritz Melchior, Lily Pons, Jerome Hines, Blanche Thebom, Leanard Warren, Jussi Bjoerling, James Melton, Robert Shaw Chorale
“Actors – Claude Rains, Katherine Cornell, Brian Aherne” 

That is truly an impressive list.  These were some of the top artists in the world, and they performed on the Jordan stage.  Not only were those international stars on the Jordan stage, as well as the famous Bob Barr Jordan bands, but, thanks to Mrs. Illeges, the 20th century version of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra was organized, with Bob Barr as its conductor, and also played on the Jordan stage until the Three Arts Theater opened. And a few years ago when a Columbus Symphony Orchestra outdoor performance in Lake Bottom was rained out, it was moved to the Jordan auditorium, its old home.   As I said in the previous post, the Jordan auditorium has historical value.

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3 Responses to “The Three Arts League’s Run at Jordan”

  1. Richard Says:

    Yet I never understood why the Historic Columbus Foundation didn’t speak up about saving the Three Arts Theater.

    It had historical value, too — for not only stage work, but TV and radio. Perhaps the reason was because it seemed quite decayed at the end.

  2. Don Coker Says:

    Dick, to say that “the Jordan auditorium has historical value” having hosted such internationally-known luminaries as Rubinstein, Menhuin and Segovia, is like saying Columbus might NOT need water restrictions this year. I enjoy your blog, my friend! Keep up the good work.

  3. Says:

    Reblogged this on Dick’s World and commented:

    With the newly renovated JVHS auditorium about to be dedicated and named the Bob Barr Auditorium on Dec. 10th at 7 p.m. as a part of the Bob Barr Community Band concert, I decided to reblog the article about the historical value of the auditorium.

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