On stage for this year’s January pops concert, the Macon Symphony Orchestra acted as back up to the rock band Jeans ‘N’ Classics that traveled from London, Ontario, on their swing through the South.
On Jan. 21, the 38th annual pops concert brought out diehard dancers and avid Motown fans on a dreary, rain soaked evening to crowd the City Auditorium’s dance floor with their disco moves and to sing along to Motown favorites.
Ticket sales for the ever popular wine raffle started when the doors opened and built to a controlled frenzy at intermission before the winner of 50 bottles of wine was announced just before the last half of the concert. Lee Laughter, Nancy White and Janet Tidwell were a few of the volunteers canvassing the tables to sell the $10 tickets. The winner was a teetotaler and good sport who decided to share the bounty with his wine loving friends.
Lea and Elbert McQueen, never a couple to miss a good dance number, were grounded due to Elbert’s broken leg. However, the crutches and cast did not keep them away from the concert. Fran Kirsch’s table is always front and center and headquarters for a legendary feast and lots of fun among friends who have made the January pops concert a yearly tradition. David Frolich was a good prop for his wife, Terri, who danced rings around him most of the night, after he announced she had worn him out early on.
Stephanie Martin and Gavin Hope, two of the vocalists with Jeans ‘N’ Classics, are seasoned performers who have reputations for excellent rapport with orchestras, which proved mutually beneficial to the band and orchestra members. Now celebrating its 40th season, the pops concert departs from the MSO’s regular programming and attracts a diverse audience, some of whom may not have attended a scheduled concert during the season, but whose interest is piqued by the departure to another genre.
Gerald Steichen, MSO’s music director, will return to Macon in early spring to conduct the last performance of the season, “Symphonie Fantastique,” on April 29 at the Grand Opera House. Ticket information and the schedule for next season are available at maconsymphony.com.
AUTHOR INSPIRED BY A MILL VILLAGE
Billie Coleman, a native of Eastman, moved to Payne City, the former employee village on the border of the Bibb Manufacturing Company. Coleman, a historian and cultural preservationist of Southern history, was curious about her new home in what was once a self contained, incorporated city within Macon until its abolition by the state legislature, and inclusion in Macon-Bibb County in 2015. Although all mills did not have surrounding neighborhoods to house employees, several were built as part of mill villages in Macon.
Inspired by the houses left after the Payne City mill was razed, Coleman began researching the history of textile mills throughout Georgia — their increased use in the early part of the 20th century and their eventual decline and closure later in the same century. The result of her research is “Images of America: Central Georgia Textile Mills,” which she debuted at the Historic Macon Foundation headquarters for the monthly Sidney’s Salon on Jan. 17.
Coleman focused her research on Middle Georgia textile mills, tracking their history from the time of reconstruction after the Civil War, when financial titans saw the advantage of building mills to process cotton in the South, close to its source, on rivers that would power the mills. With the South struggling to recover from the war’s devastation, the mills were a boon for employment in towns all over Middle Georgia.
With migration away from the farms and the decline of agriculture as a profitable or popular way to make a living, the mills and other industries beckoned to a new work force. Coleman touches on the industrial revolution overshadowing the agrarian lifestyle and on issues, such as child labor abuse, that were the collateral problems of the mills’ successes.
Coleman remarked on the re-purposing of some of the mills no longer in use, a subject close to the heart of her audience and of her host, Historic Macon, that is working with NewTown Macon and with Macon Arts Alliance to revive Milltown Village near Fort Hawkins and the Ocmulgee National Monument.
She is working on her second book, about the history of her hometown, and is doing archeological research on never seen or newly discovered artwork from the New Deal era. Her first book is available at Historic Macon and will be in bookstores Monday.