Reynolds Auditorium in Songs for a Sunday

(Photo: Unsplash)

“This auditorium is to be devoted to the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and to the education of people, in affectionate recognition of the life and services of him in whose honor and memory it is dedicated.” That’s the inscription on the bronze memorial tablet in the lobby of Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium in Winston-Salem, which was dedicated May 8, 1924.

Last week, I shared a little about University of North Carolina School of the Arts, a place that’s history plays a very important role in my upcoming novel Songs for a Sunday. This week, I want to share another location that’s featured in my book. (Can you see me in the picture, standing in the middle of those six giant columns?)

Reynolds Auditorium is the setting of TWO pivotal scenes–one in the 1960s timeline and one in the present-day timeline. Both of these scenes are some of the most emotional I’ve ever written.

The building is so majestic, it begged to be included in a story. And its history is so intriguing, it deserves to be remembered. There’s much to tell, and I encourage you to read about it at the link below. (The site includes a digital copy of the 33-page program for the five-day celebration that marked the dedication and opening of the auditorium.)

Here are a few highlights about the magnificent building:

  • The auditorium was commissioned by Katharine Smith Reynolds in memory of her late husband, Richard James Reynolds, founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. The auditorium, and the 25-acre tract of land on which it and the adjoining R.J. Reynolds High School sit, was a gift from Mrs. Reynolds to the city.
  • Katharine Reynolds, who had remarried, died 15 days after the dedication of the auditorium, from complications from childbirth, leaving behind four children from her marriage to Mr. Reynolds. (The baby, Lola, also died.) A public memorial was held for her inside the auditorium. The Wikipedia article about Mrs. Reynolds provides some fascinating details of her life.
  • The auditorium is owned and operated by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system.
  • Reynolds Auditorium hosted Harry Houdini in November 1924.
  • Handel’s Messiah has been performed here for over 70 years.

In Songs for a Sunday, two of my characters get to perform here, in very different situations. I hope you enjoy how this special location is used in the story. The book is available for pre-order now.