walkLEX: The Lyric Theater

The Temptations. Count Basie and his Orchestra. Duke Ellington. Ella Fitzgerald. All played in Lexington; all at the Lyric Theater. The corner of Third and Walnut Streets (now Third and Martin Luther King) was the center of much of Lexington's best entertainment for the better part of the early twentieth century.

But the Theater closed in 1963 and fell into disrepair (as did much of Lexington's east end). Although it has often been targeted for demolition, the city has finally OK'd the renovation of the Theater to create a community center, a smaller theater and multi-purpose space. The renovation is projected to cost $9 million and the funds will come from a public-private partnership. The Lyric is scheduled to re-open in September 2010 and talks and meeting with New York City's Lincoln Center promise a return of jazz excellence to Lexington's east end.

I like to imagine this theater at its heyday, when one of my old neighbors would have played within those walls. Clarence "Duke" Madison called Lexington home from the late 1940s until he passed in 1997, and I still remember the sweet sound of his saxophone stirring sweaty summer nights. The sounds filled the night.

Although Duke may never play again in Lexington, I hope that Lexington can again host music's best.
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