Best of 2012 - Local Arts
by Hervey Folsom
Special to The Star
Dec 23, 2012 | 2319 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Looking back over the year’s entertainment, it’s clear that there wasn’t a lack of things to see. Instead, it was often a case of making choices between two events, both taking place at the same time. The venues were varied and the people and their missions diverse. Here is my list of the best, top-quality art offerings in our area this year. These were loudly applauded throughout Calhoun County.

The Dill Pickers, Jan. 15, the Bridge at Anniston’s First United Methodist Church.

The Birmingham-based string vocal group with their down-home mood was made to feel right at home by our audience. We have much in common with this group.

First, Anniston native Norton Dill is the group’s lead singer. Dill is the son of the late Flo and Laurence Dill, who took the lead in founding Interfaith Ministries locally.

Second, the group’s first gathering as an ensemble was in Birmingham’s production of “Smoke on the Mountain,” familiar to people here. It has been presented on four different stages in this area.

People were expecting to hear a string band that Sunday afternoon, but they were pleasantly surprised. They were entertained with many genres of American music with band members swapping around “our crazy instruments,” as guitar player Kneeland Wright called them, along with some fun stories.

“With each of us coming from a theatrical background, we couldn’t possibly just play and sing. We have to entertain, and I think it left a smile on everyone’s face,” Wright said.

Instruments included piano, accordion, mandolin, strum sticks, a pennywhistle, fiddle, drums and harmonica.

The Pickers return to Anniston on Jan. 27 for a 2 p.m. engagement at First United Methodist. For ticket information, call Jan Merrill at 256-282-0058.

‘Never Thirst Again,’ April 1, Parker Memorial Baptist Church Choir and Chamber Orchestra

Talk about a life-changing event. This drama was that powerful, and it was delivered in just 45 minutes. The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection was told from the perspective of the woman of Samaria who drew water from the well. The interesting aspect was that there were two actresses portraying the Samaritan woman. One played the young woman as she first met Jesus and received new hope for her insecure life. The other portrayed her in her later years, looking back on the resurrection. It was a wonderful public offering.

‘Murder on the Set,’ Aug. 17-18, mystery dinner theater at Garfrerick’s Café.

This murder mystery by Mike Stedham made for an especially killer evening! All of Stedham’s plays are baffling and comedic, but this one departed from the usual. The “murdered” character actually survived and limped onto the stage — all bandaged up — to disclose the killer. It’s a good thing, too. The bumbling police officers didn’t seem to have a clue.

Freedom Riders Park dedication program, Oct. 18, McClellan Theater.

The day’s events celebrating the future Freedom Riders Park on Alabama Highway 202 featured a special performance by basso profundo KB Solomon.

The voice of this prominent singer, actor and composer is huge. He effortlessly filled the McClellan Theater without a microphone with his Paul Robeson tribute, “Speak of Me as I Am,” accompanied by pianist Anthony Nevala.

Solomon, who grew up in Anniston, was trained at five American universities, including Jacksonville State University, and has performed principal roles with major opera companies worldwide for 20 years. Solomon performs in the style of R&B, pop, jazz, blues, Broadway, classical and gospel.

Kaylon Gilley’s senior recital, Oct. 28, First United Methodist Church

This Saturday afternoon program by tenor vocalist and pianist Gilley showcased the abilities of a gifted JSU student who has taken advantage of the broad offerings of the school’s music department. Assisted by pianist Rhonda Robinson, Gilley performed voice selections by Handel, Mozart and Grieg, as well as piano selections by Schubert and Debussy.

After a few selections from Broadway, he sang the spiritual “Nobody Know the Trouble I’ve Seen,” arranged by Burleigh, to great applause, followed by a duet with Teresa Cheatham-Stricklin — “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” by William Gaither. It was a celebration of talent and one student’s promising future.

JSU/Community Orchestra Fall Concert, Nov. 26, Stone Center

This was a showcase of classical, baroque and romantic music by well-known composers, but some of their music was new to the ear.

According to the audience’s reaction, melodies written centuries ago by Mozart and Brahms — hit tunes then, to all who could attend concerts — still have such appeal that they were easy to hum, all the way home.

CAST’s ‘A Christmas Story,' Nov. 23-Dec. 2, McClellan Theater

This performance makes the list because it was such family fun. Children and adults were in the spotlight throughout the play. The story takes us back to “when kids were kids and Christmas was Christmas,” as artistic director Kim Dobbs said.

‘Let the Whole World Sing,’ Christmas musical at Church of the Good Shepherd, Presbyterian, 11 a.m. today

A fresh retelling of the Christmas story through music is offered today at 11 a.m. It is an example of what current composers are doing with familiar songs to spread the gospel message. From a Celtic lilt leading into “Still, Still, Still” to the African rhythms of “Come, Come, Emanuel” through the Caribbean-styled “Sing, Noel” and the Middle Eastern motifs of the gospel message to the shepherds, music in a variety of genres is blended to create a new style for the traditional Christmas story.
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Special to The Star

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