Artistic Fathers 

Rennolds, Kilgore leave cultural legacies.

Edmund A. "Ned" Rennolds Jr.


In the dining room of the Rennolds' rambling West End home hangs an animated portrait of the late Mary Anne Rennolds. She plays away at the piano, her head thrown back in glee. In the parlor hangs a portrait of her husband, Edmund A. "Ned" Rennolds Jr. He sits cross-legged, resplendent in a dinner jacket, cigarette held high. If she is fire, he is ice. Together, and for decades, they were a force of nature in Richmond musical circles. It was in their home that the Richmond Symphony was founded in 1956.

Their home was the scene of many musical evenings, the latest of which was Rennolds' 90th birthday party Jan. 7. He had spent four hours the day before at his downtown office at Davenport & Co., where he was a stockbroker. He died Jan. 10.

Rennolds didn't just lend his name to the symphony, he was also its fund- and friend-raiser for half a century. He loved his city and offered exquisite judgment, common sense, humor and kindness to many cultural endeavors. He was a guiding force in forming Richmond Friends of Opera, which established the Virginia Opera here in the 1970s.

At his funeral Jan. 13, certainly one of the most glorious this city has ever seen, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra played in the choir and organ loft, flanked by members of the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Maestro Mark Russell Smith led the musicians in selections by Bach and Mozart, and finally, all assembled in the Navy hymn "Eternal Father Strong to Save." The marble floors and vaulted ceiling of St. James's Episcopal Church resounded in a perfect harmony of instruments, voices, acoustics and architecture — and spiritualism. It was a triumphant tribute to a kind, elegant and generous man.

David "Pete" Kilgore


Portraits of three of Barksdale Theatre's founders hang in a room off the Willow Lawn theater lobby. Muriel McAuley and Nancy Kilgore died some years ago. Their fellow innovative thespian (and Nancy's husband), David "Pete" Kilgore, died Jan. 15.

In 1953 McAuley, the Kilgores and three other friends serendipitously landed in Richmond, acquired a ramshackle old tavern at Hanover Courthouse and began producing plays. Their first major production was "Gold in the Hills," a melodrama. They proved that there was. Within years, they were presenting more serious works such as "Antigone," "Our Town" and "Bus Stop." Works by Miller, Williams, Wilder and Coward followed in rapid succession. While acting and directing full time, maintaining and restoring the 18th-century tavern was equally Kilgore's focus. The building eventually needed a huge overhaul and the Barksdale moved gracefully to Willow Lawn. It must have made Kilgore happy that he lived to hear that with "Barefoot in the Park," Barksdale productions have returned to his beloved tavern-turned-playhouse.

While Richmond debates the need for a new performing arts center, Kilgore and his talented troupe have proved that it isn't just about the money or fancy facilities. Deep love of one's craft and even a drafty old tavern can be a formula for magic. S

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