Black History Month meets American Idol at the St. Louis County Library! As part of the kickoff of the library's annual monthlong celebration, a plethora of local gospel choirs (including the New Sunnymount Gospel Choir, Hazelwood East Gospel Choir and Solomon's Temple Choir) will perform at an event that will also include poetry readings (featuring Alima Saqid Afsal, pictured), storytelling and live jazz music by the Blake Travis Trio.
But in a new twist this year, the choirs' performances will be judged by a celebrity panel that includes local soul legend Fontella Bass, the booming voice behind the 1960s classic "Rescue Me." Watch your back, Ruben Studdard!
The free event happens from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters (1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard).
Throughout February, dozens more free events at branch libraries carry on the commemoration: A one-man show chronicles the life of African-American frontiersman James "Jim" Beckwourth, a puppet show adaptation of the classic Aesop fable "The Lion and the Mouse" aims to entertain the kiddies, and jewelry-making workshops will afford the big kids (ages twelve and older) some fun of their own.
More information on individual events, including the kickoff celebration, can be had by calling 314-994-3300 or by visiting www.slcl.org. -- Rose Martelli
They Eat What? Daniel vs. lions
They don't make plays like the twelfth-century church drama Daniel and the Lions anymore. They can't -- no one today knows how to play the musical instruments. No one, that is, except New York's world-renowned Ensemble for Early Music. The ensemble brings its production of Daniel and the Lions, which has been performed for sold-out audiences on three continents, to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at 8 p.m. (4431 Lindell Boulevard, $15 to $35, 314-533-7622). This production of the classic biblical story of kings, lions and miracles includes elaborate staging and lighting, costumes and the ensemble's signature: authentic medieval music on replicas of authentic period instruments. -- Ian Froeb
We'll never know what inspired Washington University alumnus Harold Ramis to write Groundhog Day, but it's a safe bet that it wasn't St. Louis winters. The story of a self-centered TV weatherman (Bill Murray) who's reliving the same day over and over until he gets it right could never happen in a city where the weather has 30-degree mood swings. Nonetheless, Ramis' Capra-esque comedy (and possible Buddhist allegory) is, far and away, the best Groundhog Day-themed film ever, managing to be touching while still having a sense of both cabin fever and desperation at its core. Furthermore, in a hilariously grouchy performance (check out the montage of suicide attempts), Murray gives a timely reminder that he was doing Oscar-level work long before Lost in Translation came calling. Groundhog Day shows on Groundhog Day at Frederick's Music Lounge (4454 Chippewa, 314-351-5711) at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free. -- Niles Baranowski
Nice Pistils, Baby
Orchids are the supermodels of the plant world. Their notorious sensitivities to atmospheric conditions, their exotic origin, their occasional stench of decay (useful for attracting flies) and their delicate beauty make orchids highly desirable to many people -- just like supermodels. The "Orchid Romance" show at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard, 314-577-9400, $3.50 to $10) features hundreds of botanical beauties displayed in a "classical ruin" setting from Saturday, January 31, through March 14. -- Paul Friswold