Diann Hutcheson and her father came in from Texas to watch her son, Brayden, play saxophone in the Townsend School of Music Honor Recital. The pair have been in town since Easter weekend. “If my boy’s playing, I’m coming,” Diann Brayden said. She said that it is her son’s first time being invited to play at the event. Townsend’s honor recital took place on April 5 in Newton Chapel in part of the BEAR Day festivities. The recital features one organist, one instrumentalist, one string player and a student vocalist. Mercer saxophonist Brayden Hutcheson was the chosen instrumentalist for this year’s program. “It’s always nice to have a familiar face in the audience,” said the Mercer saxophonist about his mother and grandfather sitting in the pews of the chapel. “Concerto in E-flat Major” by Alexander Glazunov was Brayden Hutcheson’s recital choice. “It’s hard,” Brayden Hutcheson said. The Glazunov composition is an elaborate 15-minute concerto paired with piano that requires rapid fingering on the saxophone and long sustained breaths. Brayden Hutcheson plays with his whole body and a bend of the knees. He has a great sense of musicality and style. The jazz instrument gave this classical piece a blues tonality. In addition to Brayden Hutcheson, student organist Richard Gress performed a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in E minor.” Newton Chapel houses a specially designed Holtkamp pipe organ, one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard, delivering a grand organ experience. Gress sways on the organ stool with the music, looking intently in front of him and nodding when he is ready for the sheet music to be turned. Nicholas Spooner sang tenor, accompanied by Camille Bishop on piano. Spooner has beautiful control of his voice and tender moments with the ritardandos in the music. The Mercer tenor sang four selections for his portion of the recital. A musical standout from the performance were his excerpts from “Moore’s Irish Melodies” arranged by Benjamin Britten. Notes sat well on Spooner’s voice creating a light and refreshing tone to the lyric line. Senior Zhihao Wu gave a fantastically wild and intense performance on cello at the recital. The McDuffie Center for Strings cellist performed “Toccata Capricciosa for Cello, Opus 3” by Miklós Rósza as part of his repertoire. The energetic and invigorating piece turned the bow into a sword creating a fiery sound. Closing his eyes during the performance, Wu’s playing sucked audience members into an amazing-to-watch solo. After the recital concluded, Brayden Hutcheson united with his family in the audience. Brayden Hutcheson’s parents were both musicians in college. His father became a band director. He said that music is predominant in his family. According to Diann Hutcheson, her son wants to become a band director after studying at Mercer, like his father. “Whatever our children are doing, we are coming to support them,” Diann Hutcheson said.
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The Mercer Bearitones acapella club on campus is in recording sessions for their first album. The student singing group has been meeting three times a week to record their voices since February. The entirely student-produced album is set to release at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester. “It's been on the wish list since we started,” said Mercer senior and group co-founder Zach Smith. The acapella group is now in their third year. Since beginning the project, the student ensemble will put in a total of 76 hours of singing time. The upcoming work will feature 11 songs from popular music with original arrangements by Smith. “It’s crazy to me to think that we will be on Spotify and other people could potentially be listening to us,” said Mercer senior and Bearitones president Mary Marudas. Marudas said that she and Smith often spend time listening to other collegiate acapella groups from around the country. She said she is excited that the Bearitones will soon be included with schools who have professionally produced and published tracks. With five seniors preparing to graduate, the group founders wanted to leave Bearitones with a legacy. “It seemed like something impossible,” said Marudas reflecting. However, Smith said the student singers have the talent. Mason Mishael, the club’s secretary, has the technical knowledge. It seems this year is the perfect time to produce an album. Mishael is a junior technical communications major at Mercer. Through his connections in the engineering building, he was able to get permission for the Bearitones to use the engineering department sound lab. According to MIshael, the sound lab is a quiet room with quality equipment for recording audio. “We’ve got a good technical leg up,” said Mishael. As of now, 60 percent of the vocal recording has already been completed. The last note is planned to be sung in the lab on April 27. Mishael and Smith will then take turns editing the voices together in post-production. Funding for the start-up came through an online campaign on gofundme.com. The Bearitones were able to fundraise the needed 350 dollars for the album’s CDs. “It’s cheap because we have so many talented people in the group,” Marudas said. Album artwork is being created by Mercer student Emma Williams. As the group continues to rehearse three days-a-week, they enjoy time with one another while cracking jokes and making music. The Mercer Bearitones are a family. The excitement for the album is all through the air of the rehearsal room. “It’s something I’m really going to be proud of,” Mishael said. “It’s definitely a milestone.” The group is a creative outlet for non-music majors, according to Marudas. Only four of the Beartones are actually music majors. The group is welcoming to new members who are intrigued by what they are doing. Smith said he hopes this experience and upcoming album opens a new avenue for Mercer students. “I hope (the album) becomes infectious to inspire others on Mercer’s campus to fulfill their own projects,” Smith said.
Marlon Moody’s instrument towered over him. He said this is why he chose to play the bassoon in the fifth grade. He has been playing the woodwind instrument ever since. Moody is a fourth-year technical communications major at Mercer. He plays the double reed instrument in the Mercer Wind Ensemble. However, his practice habits were not at the level they are now and he used to clown around in class. Moody said attending Mercer has been a humbling experience. As a young player Moody was over confident in his musical talents. He said he was not dedicated to the instrument like he is nowadays. He has gained maturity through studying music at Mercer. [related title="Related Stories" stories="23792,23501,23435" align="right" background="on" border="none" shadow="on"] Today as a bassoonist in the wind ensemble things are very different for Moody. “I (am) expected to perform at a certain level,” he said. He never sat first chair in the ensemble until he came to Mercer. He said first chair players get harder parts. Moody attributes his successes in the Townsend School of Music to his professors Douglas Hill and Maestro Adrian Gnam. Gnam is Moody’s private bassoon instructor. Moody said Gnam knows where he is musically and knows where he wants to take his playing. “I feel like I have the potential to do something great with (the bassoon),” Moody said. Moody wants to play to give people chills. As an artist he said he is captivated by the emotion behind playing and not necessarily by the technical skill. As a child, music was his creative way to free what was on his mind. It was this release of emotion that kept him going. “I love music,” Moody said. He continues to play for that love. In light of his own musical journey Moody said he wants people not to limit themselves. If people want to learn to play an instrument and put their mindset to it, he said they can do it. Moody said that he thinks children in Macon feel limited. “Don’t let society limit you to what you can achieve,” Moody said. “After awhile you develop the want to be good.”
Mercer University Opera brings hysterical laughter, love and deceit with their production of W. A. Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” (Women are Like That). This rollercoaster journey with high drama and a lot of laughs take audiences through the love tale of two recently engaged couples. “Cosi fan tutte” will perform in Neva Langley Fickling Hall on Mercer’s campus from April 5-8. Shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. April 5 through 7 and 3:30 p.m. on April 8. Tickets are $15 general admission. All students get in free with an ID. The opera will be performed in English as a more enjoyable experience for Macon audiences. In a cafe in Naples, Italy two young men are wagered that their fiancés, who are sisters, would not stay faithful to them. The two men agree to the wager and disguise themselves as foreigners in an attempt to woo the other’s fiancé. “Mozart is always generous with human faults,” said Mercer opera director Martha Malone. Malone said the story is about an exploration in love and forgiveness. In what turns into a fiasco of trickery, the men have to learn to pardon their fiancés’ flaws and mistakes. Malone said that in her interpretation of the opera the women also have to settle the score with their partners, placing blame on both sides. “The dramatic crux of ‘Cosi’ is the effect the elaborate masquerade has on everybody – the confusion and guilt of the sisters after they throw over their beaus for new lovers, and the anger and bruised egos of the men,” opera reviewer John von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune last month. “All we really know is that everybody is in for some sobering soul-searching.” The opera, which debuted in Vienna, Austria in 1790 has had a history of being considered risqué and vulgar for its themes of temptation, seduction and misogyny. However, opera’s conductor Richard Kosowski said that Mozart is the first truly feminist composer. “His female characters are morally strong, confident and willful in a sense that they know their mission and they know what they want in life,” Kosowski said. The Mercer conductor said that he thinks it must have been the formabital women in Mozart’s personal life that shaped his “belief in the strength of women.” Malone said she wants audiences to get to the deeper meaning of Mozart's story: forgiveness. This week the Mercer cast has been in dress rehearsal preparing for the upcoming performances. Malone said that actor-singers are ready and all they need is an audience. The Townsend School of Music students have been preparing for the opera since fall, when they were given their music last October. In preparation for their parts, the students took their music to their private voice lessons. “We have a perfect cast,” Malone said. According to Malone, the vocal repertoire in “Cosi fan tutte” is demanding with a wide voice range. She said that the opera is a piece that would be preferred for colleges because it requires a small cast, but only if the student performers voices have the maturity to handle the music’s technicality. “It is always a privilege to help our students prepare a masterwork, like ‘Cosi fan tutte.’ Mozart, and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, were extraordinarily careful in the creation and pacing of the opera,” Kosowski said. Malone beamed with confidence in her cast and said that this is “the year for Cosi.”
The Macon Pops orchestra is firing things up in Hawkins Arena on Friday with their end-of-season Latin concert. Titled “Latin Pop Revolution,” the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $14 for students and $24 regular price. Tickets can be purchased online from the Macon Pops website. The Latin American inspired concert will feature new and classic music from the past 75 years of Latin pop music. “All of our shows are completely handcrafted,” said Pops Co-Founder and President Steve Moretti. Grammy award-winning composer Matt Catingub has created all new musical arrangements specifically for this concert. Catingub is the artistic director and conductor for the Macon Pops. “Matt and I come up with the concepts, and he comes up with the arrangements,” Moretti said. Moretti, who also plays the drums for the pops, is most looking forward to their rendition of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.” Music from Tito Puente, Sergio Mendes, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and more will also be featured. The innovative, high energy pops orchestra wants to play music that makes people dance. Attendees do not have to come dressed up, said Moretti. The group is putting a fresh spin on what a pops group is. There is a dance floor and a giant video screen showing live close-ups of the musician. “It’s like a giant nightclub with a 40-piece orchestra,” Moretti said. The symphonic pops orchestra will feature a group of 40 musicians with a special guest performance from singer-actress, Christina Souza. “I enjoy the juxtaposition of pop music with the orchestra,” Souza said. Soza has performed with legendary musicians Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand and Taylor Dayne. She will be singing songs in both Spanish and Portuguese. Moretti urges Mercerians to attend, because tickets have been discounted to suit student budgets, and it gives people access to a “big city concert.” “Year number five is certainly a milestone,” Moretti said regarding their end-of-season show. They want everyone to have a good time, he said.
The Civil War era “Battle Hymn of the Republic” plays patriotically in the background as guests of Ocmulgee National Monument take their seats for the third annual Ranger Talk celebrating Black History Month. As visitors find an open chair in the downstairs classroom, Park Ranger Lonnie Davis answers questions in a full Union Army uniform. “I have my trusty musket,” said Lonnie Davis, the park`s cultural resources specialist and historian. “I cover parts of history that has slipped historians and history books.” The month-long program focuses on Georgia’s African Brigade formed as part of the United States Colored Troops in the later part of the American Civil War. The Black History Month event began last Saturday and will continue on Feb. 10, 17 and 24. Each presentation is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. All presentations take place in the park’s museum. “This happened right here in Macon, Georgia,” Lonnie Davis said. The last three colored regiments under the Bureau of Colored Troops were formed in Macon. The African Brigade would span the years of 1863 to 1867. In the lesser known Civil War event titled “Wilson's Raid,” Union General James Harrison Wilson led a march from Alabama to Georgia. During this operation, Wilson's men liberated 3,211 former slaves, who would become part of the Georgia African Brigade. Almost overnight these once chattel servants transformed from slave to soldier. It would be the 136th, 137th and the 138th Infantry Regiments of the brigade that were positioned in Georgia to assist with the fulfilment of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Freedmen's Bureau was founded in 1865 with the ending of the Civil War to assist destitute and suffering refugees and newly freedmen and their wives and children in the South. David A. Davis, associate director of the Center for Southern Studies at Mercer University, said that often the Civil War is reduced to only the battles and generals involved. “But the Civil War was actually a social revolution that affected the everyday life of virtually every American alive at the time,” David Davis said. “Understanding the war requires understanding much more than just the military history.” The Ranger Talk is designed to educate audiences on forgotten African American history in one of the most pivotal wars in our nation’s past. Former slaves were freed and recruited, ironically given muskets confiscated from the Confederate Army and formed some of the most significant brigades to serve during the Reconstruction Era of the South. Yet, most Americans do not know this story. “Most people don’t know history, they know heritage,” Lonnie Davis said. He said that most people know the general heritage of their particular ethnic group passed down from each generation through time. However, they do not know the more detailed history of events. “We should bear in mind that African Americans were actively involved in the Civil War in many ways. They contributed to resistance programs, spy networks and fought their own freedom,” David Davis said. The Mercer professor said the South is not monolithic or static, but instead complicated and dynamic. Lonnie Davis has crafted a 16-page historical document and a 110-page genealogical data log with all recorded individuals from the Georgia brigade. According to the park historian, his genealogical document is possibly the first complete record of these previously enslaved people. The document features the soldiers’ names, unit they were assigned to, their rank, where they were born, their age of enlistment and their date of death if available. “It just so happens that Cesar Davis was my great great grandfather,” said Lonnie Davis. On page 49 from the 137th Infantry, Sergeant Cesar Davis of Upson County, Georgia is listed, Lonnie Davis’ paternal grandfather. Lonnie Davis said this document can be used for genealogical research. He is living testament to that. At the end of the day, the park ranger said he wants to show that not all people of color in the United States were slaves. Some of these people were craftsmen, others engineers or even at one time soldiers.
Emily Brewer remembers painting in the kitchen with her grandmother at their family home in Ohio. Both her grandparents are painters and owned a hobby store near where they lived. Getting paid in quarters, as Brewer puts it, she worked in the family arts shop rearranging and dusting products. It was there, spending time with her grandparents, that she discovered herself as a visual artist. “It just really spoke to me,” Brewer said. Today, the Fine Arts and Psychology double major finds herself enchanted by watercolor. “Watercolor has a mind of its own,” she said. Brewer is inspired by the free form the watered-down paint has on the page she is working on. As the color takes to the veins of the paper, she said the paint style allows her to express herself more. “My art tends to be very personal to my experience and my feelings,” she said. Trained in acrylic paint by her grandparents, this is a new medium for Brewer. She learned the technique during her watercolor course at Mercer, taught by professor Eric O’Dell. Most recently, however, Brewer has taken up illustration in her senior independent study this semester. “Until last year I would have told you I was a painter,” Brewer said. “I still am.” However, the young artist found that in illustration, her personal style came through. Her newest illustration works are being featured in her senior showcase at the 567 Center downtown in April. Pen and ink drawings backed by watercolor is her signature. These are the kind of pieces featured in her showcase. Brewer said that Mercer has created the foundation for her as an artist. She had never taken a formal art class before attending college. “Plans I thought I had have changed a lot,” said Brewer. After college, the painter and illustrator would like to continue her education in psychology. While pursuing her master’s degree, Brewer has plans to establish herself as an book illustrator doing freelance work. She said having an artistic outlet is important. “It is monumental in the development of yourself,” Brewer said. Sticking close to her roots as an artist, she hangs her grandmother’s paintings in her studio back home. Brewers said it is her grandmother’s paintings that give her inspiration to continue.
This Friday, travel the night with the Museum of Arts and Sciences’ monthly planetarium and observatory event. Sky Over Macon occurs on the fourth Friday of every month. It allows museum visitors the opportunity to watch a uniquely live planetarium show and take a glimpse of our solar system from a few of the museum’s ten telescopes. The evening event starts Jan. 27 at 8:00 p.m., with the planetarium show beginning sometime between 8:15-8:30 p.m. Guests can start arriving as soon as 7:45 p.m. The event concludes at 10 p.m. The cost of admission is at the museum’s standard rate of $10 for general tickets, $7 for students with ID and children for $5. “For the price of admission (visitors) get to see the museum and events,” said Paul Fisher, museum science curator. [related title="Related Stories" stories="22972,22979,23108" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="on"] In addition to the observatory experience and planetarium show, evening guests will be able to visit the entire museum. Fisher advises that visitors arrive on time. “You can’t walk in late into a planetarium show,” he said. Fisher said that the planetarium at the Macon museum on Forsyth Road is around 52 years old. “I feel lucky here in Macon that we have a planetarium that is active,” he said. The night-time planetarium shows are unique in that instead of audience members learning a general overview of our solar system, Fisher flys guests through what the sky looks like that evening. Visitors will literally see what the sky over Macon looks like, according to Fisher. “If you’ve never seen it, your (jaw) will drop,” he said. The planetarium only has 122 chairs, so seating is limited. “I use this event as one of my make-up classes,” said Matthew Marone, Mercer associate professor of physics and educator of astronomy. Fisher and Marone do recommend this event to college students and not just those studying the sciences. The museum observatory houses an 8, 10 and 14-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrains telescopes, 17-inch Dobsonian, and a recently-commissioned Meade LX200, which is a 10-inch commercial telescope - to name a few. Guests will receive the opportunity to view our solar system through one of these stargazing instruments. Marone said that Macon is light polluted. Light pollution is excessive and inappropriate artificial light, which limits the visibility of the night sky above. “The view in Macon is terrible,” he said. Although Marone does bring attention to the light issue in Macon, he does recommend the event. “I think what they (Museum of Arts and Sciences) do is a very valuable public service,” he said. According to Marone, the evening opens a new world for the public to gain access to scientific activities they may have read about, but did not know how to experience it themselves.
The classic Nutcracker ballet has taken over the Macon Museum of Arts and Science annual Festival of Trees. The largest fundraiser for the museum is celebrating its 31st year. Festival of Trees will be on display at the museum on 4182 Forsyth Road until Jan. 14. The exhibit is a collection of about 30 designer-decorated Christmas trees following the Nutcracker theme. However, some trees featured in the festival are not necessarily in theme to the Russian ballet. “The designer can choose if they go that route,” said Museum Director of Communication Sherry Singleton. Festival events included a 200-guest luncheon at the museum, a gala at Terminal Station and a children’s event. All events took place earlier in November. The children's event kicked off the opening of Santa’s Secret Shop, where kids can bring their holiday shopping list and purchase pre-wrapped gifts ranging from $1 to $10. “It’s all really great quality stuff, not like the Santa shop at school,” Singleton said. “They have a bag of presents ready to go.” Festival of Trees was originally titled Our Holiday Best, and the designer trees were sold to the community as part of the fundraiser. “It was a way to celebrate the holidays around the world,” Singleton said. The event was reformatted when museum officials realized that guests to the museum were not getting to enjoy the exhibit prior to the Christmas holiday because the trees were all sold off. Today, the trees are not for sale and are available for viewing well after the New Year. Museum guests are allowed to take holiday family photos in front of the trees as well. Singleton suggests to those who have never visited the museum to come see this holiday highlight. “The museum has the perception of being a children’s museum, but it is not,” Singleton said. She said that fine arts buffs and students come to the museum to sketch. The museum features a substantial collection of fine and decorative arts. “The museum is just a fantastic place,” Singleton said.
The mural spans the length of Indigo Salon on the edge of Mercer Village on Coleman Avenue. It is made up of vibrant hues of purple and blue spray paint, highlighted with white, shaded in black. In the center stands Martin R. Delany, who served as the first African-American field grade officer in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. He was active in recruiting African-Americans for the United States Colored Troops on the Union Army side. A group of black Civil War soldiers stand behind him. Beside Delaney is Sam Oni, Mercer’s first black student from Africa. The mural is made up of several layers of symbolism. The first layer is a commentary on the consideration of confederate monument removal. “All my work is activist-based,” said muralist and graffiti artist Joereal Elliott. A silhouette of Rosa Parks seated on the famous Montgomery, Alabama bus stands in the background of the painting. Her booking number 7053 from her arrest is just beneath her. Thais Ackerman Craig Coleman, Mercer associate professor of art, said that it was a student living in the apartments across from the mural that suggested to Elliott that Parks be added to the piece. “It’s about using your body as a voice,” Elliott said. The individuals in the mural are painted in different positions from standing and sitting to kneeling. Two football players kneel on either side of Delany, paying a nod to the ongoing National Anthem protest that began in 2016. The protest calls attention to racial inequality and police brutality issues in the U.S. The second layer is about the need for greater equal rights in America. Many of Elliott’s works have been equal rights pieces, especially regarding Native Americans. The Mercer Village mural is the last project spearheaded by the university’s art department “Art in the Park” series funded by the Knight Neighborhood Grant. The murals official unveiling took place on Nov. 17 at noon. The mural was presented to about a dozen spectators comprised of Mercer students, faculty and Macon community members. Elliott spoke on behalf of his piece in detail and the event concluded with a light reception. The unveiling was part of a two-week program that featured two lectures about graffiti art and activism, and a workshop about graffiti style and spray paint can control. Originally from San Angelo, Texas, Elliott is now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he is also a practicing yoga instructor. As a well-traveled artist, Elliott has been able to incorporate various graffiti and street art styles from around the United States into his own works. His artistic intentions are to create non-reductive works that cultivate a contemplative space of liberty through living symbolism and the creative unconscious. [related title="Related Stories" stories="22525,22811,9821" align="right" background="off" border="none" shadow="off"] “This is my first time in Georgia,” Elliott said. As a guest artist, Elliott said he wants to paint something that is aesthetically beautiful, but that has depth and is relative to the community. He said that the city of Macon has great potential to have more legal public art. “I hope the city and… officials like what I am doing and allow more artists to do more (local art),” Elliott said. He suggests that the healthy recipe for public art is 60 to 70 percent coming from local community artists and then 30 to 40 percent from the outside. “The feedback has been very positive,” Coleman said. Coleman said that the goal of the mural was to widen people’s view on how public art can bring a positive impact to a place and community. The third layer to the mural is a petition against the proposed Trump wall between the Mexican-United States border. Each square foot of the painting is a petition of scale to the border wall. Elliott has already out scaled the prototype Trump wall. “Typically when artists transform a wall it’s an act of inclusiveness and transforms a community. And, it’s rarely harmful and submissive, like the Trump wall,” Elliott said. “This mural feels really good,” he said.
After months of anticipation the Grand Opera House has finally reopened presenting its new renovations. The new carpet feels comfortable as the foam bends and molds to each step of the foot. It is red and unworn. There are no signs of treadmarks anywhere. Gram Slaton, executive director of the Grand, says theatre carpet is supposed to last 30 to 40 years The previous flooring in the lobby was 30-year-old hotel carpet, which only has a lifetime of three to five years. “That’s called dorm room carpet,” said Slaton, explaining that the previous flooring was dingy with years of drink stains saturated in it. Renovations at the Grand began Aug. 1 with a plan to install new carpeting, install historically correct seating, make subsequent changes to heating and air and expand the stage loading dock door by 50 percent. The work was complete on Oct. 12, when the symphony moved back in. The funds for the renovations came through a Macon voter selected Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), which allocates money to county projects aimed to improve quality of life and safety. The SPLOST includes funding city infrastructure projects. The Grand had to lobby for a portions of those funds to be allocated for their restorations. Slaton said that old theatres like the Grand are costly to keep up, especially in the South where weather and humidity play a role in causing deterioration. The Grand Opera House opened its doors in 1904. It is the longest running theatre in Macon and at one time held the largest stage in the South. It was built large enough to hold a production of Ben Hur with a live horse and chariot race, which was performed in 1908. As Slaton walks around the seating area of the theatre, the chairs are wooden now with a bigger seat pan. They are stained in a light natural wood color and upholstered in blue. The floors have been brought back to be wooden with aisle lined in carpet as it would have looked in the 1920s. The chairs are historically accurate and emulate a common style of theatre seating available from 1890 to the 1930s. “[The seating] was in dire need of replacement,” said Slaton. The previous chairs were dark green, metal high school auditorium seats, that were purchased from a local school in the 1970’s. As Slaton stands at the stage loading dock door to take a work related phone call, the door is much larger today. The door now spans the width and height of a commercial truck trailer. As Broadway shows have gotten bigger, so have their set designs. The previous stage door was too small to load in all of the scenic elements from touring shows that perform at the Grand. This was a problem with last season’s production of “Annie” when the iconic oversized Christmas tree and front steps of the final scene could not be loaded into the building. According to Slaton, this was a let down to audience members who knew the show. “You [now] will be getting the show that you pay for,” said Slaton. There is still much to be done at the Grand. Slaton said that the two biggest complaints for the opera house have been the seats and the insufficient size of the restrooms. Next year the restrooms will be remodeled and the front lobby will be expanded and rewired to feature chandeliers that once graced the space. “We had to carefully select which projects we wanted to do,” Slanton said. “ And now, we have all winter to think about [it].”
Robert Earl Keen debuted his country music career in 1984 with “No Kinda Dancer.” The singer-songwriter has produced 18 full-length albums since then and was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. He has not always been the festive type. “I was always a little skeptical of the Christmas scene,” said Keen He attributes his previous suspicions to his unconventional upbringing as seen in his 1994 holiday hit “Merry Christmas from the Family.” The alternative country song celebrates a Christmas holiday of chaos, family drunkenness and gritty humor. [related title="Related Stories" stories="17723,22786" align="right" background="on" border="none" shadow="off"] Keen’s upcoming holiday music tour will deliver nothing less than a good time with a bit of spoof. On Nov. 30 the Texas musician is coming to the Cox Capitol Theatre to perform his annual Christmas concert. Tickets range from $35 to $50 and can be purchased online. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show beginning promptly at 8 p.m. The singer-songwriter said the concert is like a Broadway show featuring over-the-top sets and costumes. “We have the world’s largest can of fake snow,” Keen said. “We have the world’s largest box of tampons.” Keen said this year’s holiday tour is being called “Back to the Country Jamboree” as the holiday bash celebrates country rock music. Band members will be decked out in their best rendition of rock music icons. One member will be dressed as Tom Petty and another as Neil Young. Keen will be the M.C. as he puts it. He said his goal is to get people into the Christmas spirit. A few years back Keen came to a change of heart about the December holiday. He found the importance of celebrating the imperfections of Christmas. This is what this holiday show plans to do. The Christmas concert is now in its six year and has seen major success in Keen’s native state of Texas. “We became the Jimmy Buffett of December,” Keen said. This upcoming tour is the first time Keen and his bandmates are taking the show out-of-state and on the road. It is a big show. Keen had to hire a truck and trailer to haul the set. The band will be traveling by bus, but he said it will be a little crowded with all of the costumes and props on board. “It’s a rigorous effort, but it’s worth it,” Keen said. The November show will be a return performance in Macon for Keen. He played downtown a few years back. “I go to places that I like,” he said. Macon is one of only two stops in Georgia Keen is making during his tour. He will perform in Atlanta later in December. He has had his band for 25 years and one of his primary concerns is family first. The now Christmas enthusiast tries not to burn off major holidays. Keens is looking forward to playing in Georgia and said that the Peach State “always treats them real nice.”
Mercer University’s award-winning literary magazine has been around since the 60’s, but it has not always looked the way it does now. The Dulcimer began as a way for creative writers on campus to publish their poetry. “It wasn’t always a gem on Mercer’s campus,” said Yael Tessler, the magazine’s publicity manager. Some years it was not a magazine at all. But instead, no more than a single page publishing student’s work. According to Tessler, it was about 5 years ago when the magazine had a complete overhaul. The change won the publication its first award as “Most Improved Organization.” One of its most recent additions has been a focus on graphic design and visual art. The magazine has widened its horizon, now focusing on a variety of artistic mediums. “We are a platform for Mercer students and faculty to get their [creative] work published,” said Tessler. Mercer alumni are also able to submit for publication. As the Dulcimer is developing its presence on campus, they are currently accepting submissions for their upcoming publication in April. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 12 at 11:59 p.m. “This year’s theme is Spectrum,” said student Editor-in-Chief Chelsea Carr. Carr explains that Spectrum is about seeing that there is more to life than black and white. It involves appreciating differences and finding where we individually lie within art and literature. “Life is not binary,” Carr said. “It’s really about recognizing and celebrating cultures.” The Dulcimer keeps their annual themes specific enough to give content creators direction, but also vague to lead to artistic interpretation and free expression. Students and faculty are allowed to submit outside of the theme, but it is not preferred. For those who are not able to submit in November, there will be another short submission opening early next spring. However, Tessler suggests it is better to submit earlier because the majority of the publication will take shape this fall. “I would really like to see more art submissions,” said Tessler. “We have never had a sculpture submission.” Tessler said that the Dulcimer would like to see more people having fun with their art and submitting works that are light-hearted and amusing in nature. Carr would like to spread the Dulcimer’s impact across Mercer and the student community, stating that the magazine is open to all majors. “We just want students to know we are here,” she said. The magazine is planning on releasing its upcoming issue during next year’s Bear Day. The organization will host its annual launch party on one evening of the event, and anyone is welcome to attend. Readers can pick up a free copy of the Dulcimer and meet with some of the artists and writers featured in the magazine. “It’s… a celebration of the magazine,” Carr said.
Roald Dahl’s high-flying story James and the Giant Peach is coming to Mercer University next month. The musical adaptation of the famed children's novel will take place Nov. 1 through 5 at Tattnall Center for the Arts presented by Mercer Theatre. The play tells the tale of English orphan boy James Henry Trotter, who escapes the clutches of his dreadful aunts, Spiker and Sponge. He embarks on a soaring adventure aboard a magical peach to New York City, befriending a motley crew of zaney insects. Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 through 4, with a 1 p.m. show on Nov. 4 and 2:30 p.m. on the Nov. 5. There will be a special performance on Nov. 12 at the Monroe Fine Arts Center. Now a Theatre for Young Audiences musical, the play features music and lyric from Tony Award-nominated team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The whimsical script comes from playwright Timothy Allen McDonald, known for his previous adaptation of Dahl’s Willy Wonka. Over the past weeks, Mercer Theatre actors have been in rehearsals. “We started rehearsals the next day,” said Mercer junior Briá Smith. Auditions took place on Sept. 18 and 19, where student players were asked to sing a song and had the opportunity to perform a monologue. The 17 person cast quickly began learning their lines and the upbeat songs from the entertaining score. Then dancing and stage direction was added bringing the performers closer to running the full show. “I get to have costume changes and be more than one character in the show,” Smith said. Smith is singing and dancing in the chorus, where she said she is having fun with her fellow cast members and the crew. “The show is all about the power of friendship and how the people that are your true friends can be more like family than your blood relatives,” she said.
Brittany Wiggins’ most vivid memory of placing pen to paper is at age 11. Writing poetry is something she has done for as long as she can remember. “It brings me clarity,” the Mercer sophomore said. Wiggins said that writing often reveals something to her. Sometimes it is a new thought. Other times, it is a new perspective she did not know she had. Lately, the poet is writing about love and loss of love. Wiggins said that her writing style is real because she pulls inspiration from her life and the people around her. “They relate to my poetry,” Wiggins said about her readers. There is a shared experience with her and her readers, she said. Wiggins associates the realism in her writings to her commitment to honesty. “I value a high level of honesty,” she said. “I’m a very blunt person.” As a double major in creative writing and English, Wiggins aspires to become a college professor. She realized in high school that she wanted to work all the way through to her Ph.D. As a dual enrolled student in both high school and college, Wiggins was able to take university level courses to focus on her writing. In her college classrooms, her instructors inspired her to become a future educator herself. Wiggins said that seeing her professors’ accomplishments in writing made her confident and proud as a developing wordsmith. As she works to achieve her educational goals, Wiggins also writes for herself. “My coping mechanism is writing,” she said. Even in her childhood, Wiggins turned to writing and poetry to sort through life’s problems. With pen and paper, she puts things into existence and frees her mind of any clutter or fog. “You are pulling something out of nothing,” Wiggins said. She finds art in writing by pointing out the same creative process that is shared among all art forms. Wiggins said that young writers should try all styles of writing and push themselves to experience types of writing they are not comfortable with. She advocates for people to explore all various mediums and genres, but to always be honest. “No one wants you to sugar coat your writing about your life,” Wiggins said.
In a new documentary, the life of musician Lady Gaga is revealed in a remarkably candid light like never before seen of a mega pop star. “Gaga: Five Foot Two” made its debut on Netflix Sept. 22. The documentary by visual artist Chris Moukarbel follows the pop star while making her fifth studio album “Joanne.” Viewers get a behind-the-scenes look into the pop star’s daily life, catching a glimpse of the real woman behind Lady Gaga. Like everyone else, Gaga struggles with self-doubt and finds counsel through friends and family. The 100-minute film is a commentary on fame and the reality of how crippling a life in the limelight can be. After the release on Netflix, Gaga wrote in a Twitter post, “Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be.” She said in the post that her lifestyle is lonely, isolating and psychologically challenging. At times the film is difficult to look at as is depicts a woman struggling through life while trying to promote her business. In a hard-to-watch scene, Gaga lays on the couch in enormous amounts of body pain due to her battle with fibromyalgia--a chronic disorder with widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tenderness in the body--which she has become public about. This scene took place hours before she attended Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday party. In the next scene, Gaga is performing a jazz version of “Bad Romance.” It is the combination of moments like these that make the cinematic experience disheartening to watch. She never gets a break. For every major success, Gaga pays the price in other unwanted ways. Taking place during her breakup with ex-fiancé Taylor Kinney, Gaga said in the film that she loses everybody. Fame has taken some of the best parts of her life, but she relentlessly moves forward making her music and album. The singer is so touched by her music that she willing walks through hell and back for her art. It gives a new appreciation for those in the music business, like Lady Gaga. Whether or not the film quality was up to snuff is debatable. The film went out of focus many times and shots were shaky or not executed in the most aesthetically pleasing way. It is understandable that Moukarbel may have wanted to give audiences the most raw look into Gaga’s life. However, with so much torment going onscreen for the pop star, audiences would have benefited from a better quality of film. Like yin and yang, the director could have balanced out the harder moments with more visually pleasing shots. Although the film had an overarching tone of sadness, it also celebrates great highlights in the singer's life. Beginning months before Gaga’s Super Bowl LI halftime performance, the film ends with the singer and her team preparing for the show. Here is where we see the dedication of the performer. Days leading up to the performance in rehearsal, Gaga holds nothing back. No injury can stop her. She is going to put on the best show, and she makes sure no detail is missed. By the end of the film, the well-known halftime performance is a major success. Gaga and her team are celebrating the victory and emotions run high. This is a moment where fame pays her back.
Cornets were ringing with whimsical repetitious phrases, filling the Mercer concert hall with excitement and jubilation. The Atlanta-based brass band was full, bolstering a sound that you can feel in your bones. Director Joe Johnson was precise and detailed with every moment of his conducting. The music was fast-paced with a straightforward melody line. The Georgia Brass Band thrilled audience members with a one-night-only concert on Sept. 22. “It went very well,” said trombonist and Mercer Adjunct Instructor Hollie Lawing Pritchard. The concert took place at Fickling Hall on Mercer University's campus. Georgia’s only competitive brass band is featured as part of the Townsend School of Music concert series. The 29-member band gave concert goers a unique experience. The Georgia Brass Band is modeled after British style brass bands that were popular during England's Industrial Revolution. “There is an element of Salvation Army [band],” baritonist Robert Rickles said about the band's style. Instead of trumpets, the band features the mellower cornet. Instead of French horns, E-flat tenor horns take their place. Rickles said the band's sound is a fairly specific instrumentation. According to Johnson, the theme of the evening was variations and dances. The program featured modern variations on historical musical compositions and instrumentations created for dance. One of the most memorable was 18th Variation from “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninov. “It's one of the classics you hear in orchestral music,” Rickles said. The gorgeously cinematic variation featured solo work from E-flat cornetist Douglas Lindsey. With a beautifully balanced underscore from the rest of the band, Lindsey soared on top in the soprano part. His honest performance allowed for a soulful and heartfelt solo. The concert ended with a collection of 12 variations titled “Harmonious Variations on a Theme of Handel” by Gordon Langford. The piece is an adaptation of “The Harmonious Blacksmith” by George Frideric Handel. “It was an extremely challenging program,” Lawing Pritchard said. Lawing Pritchard has been with the band for about 14 years. She met her husband while playing with the group. The trombonist explains that the band is a family. “We are definitely there for one another,” she said. Although the band is entirely a volunteer commitment, Lawing Pritchard said she does it because the music is beautiful. “I don't think I can convey… how much I love this band,” she said.
The whistle blows, and it is opening game for the Mercer Singers this Saturday. Mercer University's touring choir is set to begin their semester season with a concert during Family Weekend. The concert will be held Sept. 30 in Fickling Hall on Mercer's campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. “It’s kind of the opening game of the football season,” said Mercer conductor Stanley L. Roberts about the performance. The Family Weekend showcase is the first concert of the year for the group. The Mercer Singers take the stage in the first half of the concert, and then soloist and small groups from the Townsend School of Music are featured, finishing out the program. “We love for the [Mercer] students to come,” Roberts said. Roberts also said that people with very little music experience will find joy in this concert. The afternoon performance will feature a variety of music that the singers have been working on over the last six weeks. According to Roberts, there are three pieces by contemporary composers. The works of Eric Whitiker, Gjlo and Memly will be featured. “A lot of people say they sound like movie music,” Roberts said. “Unclouded Day” by Kirchner is the favorite of Mercer Singer Joy Mote. Mote has been with the group for four years now. “Kirchner took the traditional hymn and arranged it for choir in a way that highlights the positive outlook on life after death,” said the senior music major. The program closer is a traditional gospel piece. Finally, the Mercer Alma Mater and Fight Song will victoriously conclude the concert. Mote explains how struggling with new music can be challenging with new singers every year, but that it is a gratifying process when the group performs for the first time. It makes for a proud moment, the success of the group. Roberts said that every year features the addition of a few new singers. For some members this is the first time they have sung with the Mercer Singers. “A very selective group,” Roberts said about his choir. This year only 10 new spaces were filled in the 48-member choir. For Mote, this is here seventh semester singing with the Mercer Singers. “Since this is my last year, I am trying to cherish every performance opportunity that I have left with this group,” Mote said. According to Mote, the choir is made up of graduate and undergraduate students. There are music majors, athletes, science majors, engineers and other majors. “I just think this group [is] a Mercer treasure,” Roberts said.
Ampersand, the local Macon artist guild and art gallery, is transitioning into a new location due to expansion. The new guild hall and art gallery will be located at 382 Cherry Street in Downtown Macon. The guild will be moving into the old Children’s Museum, which closed in 2014. On Aug. 30, Ampersand locked its doors for the last time at its original location on 5th street to focus on this transition. As of now, the Guild said to look to their Facebook page for any news regarding the move. The guild’s website currently says that it is closed for relocation and to “keep watch for updates.” Since August, Ampersand has been crowdfunding for their new move through gofundme.com. They note that donations will go towards making the new guild hall as much of home as their previous location. As of last weekend the guild has raised $585 out of a goal of $6000. In a promotional video shared through social media, Ampersand said that the new location on the corner of Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will offer more space for their creative members to display, make and sell their works.
Stevie Watson has found a new love at Mercer. Four years ago, the young actress traveled South from her home in Chattanooga, Tennessee to take Mercer’s stage by storm. Having only performed in one show and two short plays at her former high school, Watson had no idea she would evolve into the seasoned thespian she is today. Watson simply “showed up” to her first open audition during her second semester at Mercer. She knew no one and hardly anything about the show. The young Mercerian was called back, made the cut and soon joined the cast of Hedda Gabler. “It was like the best day ever,” Watson said. That was just the beginning. Now, the senior marketing major spends most of her days on campus attending class and rehearsing several hours a night for her next theatrical production. She has even performed professionally while living in Macon. Last January, Watson was hired as an extra in “I, Tonya” which filmed in the Macon Centreplex. The feature film is about competitive ice skater Tonya Harding. “I’m not afraid to talk in front of people,” she said. Watson said the Mercer theater department has taught her to let loose. She has become comfortable giving presentations in academic classes and is not afraid of making mistakes. Although she dedicates her academic focus primarily to the Stetson School of Business, Watson said it is important to cross over into other areas. Watson said she likes Mercer’s ability to foster students into expanding their interests. As of now, Watson would like to complete her studies in the business school and take on a job in marketing. However, she still wants to continue performing. She says it is a part of her. She calls acting an artform, because of its ability to make people feel things. Her favorite place at the theater is the house where the audience sits. “I immediately feel different when I walk in the building,” she said. When she is in her space and doing her art, Watson said it is easier for her to step into her character. Once the final curtain has closed, a part of that character sticks with her. She said that acting has allowed her to understand people and herself. Watson would like to end up somewhere where she can work in her field and also participate in the community theater. She advocates for others to step outside their area of study and experience new ventures. “Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things,” she said.