The Macon Concert Association, as a member of the Concert Artists Guild’s Performance Prize Presenter Network, brings rising stars in the world of classical music to Macon for its series of performances throughout the year. On Jan. 30, violinist Emil Altschuler and pianist Thomas Pandolfi, both acclaimed musicians in their fields, performed in Wesleyan College’s Burden Parlor, an intimate space that was ideal for the evening’s program.
The first selection, Franz Schubert’s “Fantasia for Violin and Piano in C major,” written in 1827, was part of a frenetic cycle of songwriting that reflected his declining health and a morbid preoccupation with tragedy and death. The melancholia of the composition as expressed by Altschuler’s violin was in stark contrast to Panolfi’s robust will to prevail over illness.
Altschuler and Panolfi departed from the schedule and played Robert R. Bennett’s delightful “Hexapoda, Five Studies in Jitteroptera,” an upbeat relief to the previous Schubert composition, from the contemporary composer best known for his arrangements for Broadway musicals. Bennett, who was a classically trained musician, was encouraged by his mother to avoid popular music, a conflict he endured throughout his creative life while he garnered awards for collaborations for stage and screen.
The virtuosity and the versatility of both performers was evident in Pablo de Sarasate’s “Ziegeunerweisen,” the gypsy airs written by a man considered one of the 10 best violinists in history. Sarasate’s career spanned the last half of the 19th century and, by the time he died in 1908, he was known for his breathtaking performances, which, according to George Bernard Shaw, “left criticism gasping for miles behind him.”
The MCA continues the season with a performance in Pierce Chapel in April, featuring baritone Vratislav Kriz and soprano Yuki Srejma Kinjo, with world renowned pianist and Maconite, Edward Eikner.
THE OTHER JOHNSTONS
The Johnston-Felton-Hay House was built in the mid 1850s by William Butler Johnston and his wife, Anne Clark Tracy, after their marriage in 1851. Much has been written and is known about the family and their heirs, who later owned the house before it was sold to the second family who lived there, the P.L. Hays.
However, according to local author Rick Hutto, there was another Johnston family that figured prominently in the settlement of Macon and in its prosperity. The home of William Marsh Johnston and his family overlooked the city from the site of Mercer University’s Walter F. George Law School on Bond Street. The house was built with the lavish flourishes of the Victorian era while the Hay House is an example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture.
On Jan. 29, Historic Macon Foundation launched the Jordan Massee lecture series with Hutto’s presentation, with plans to make the lectures about Macon’s history an annual event, made possible by an endowment managed by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. According to Historic Macon, the goal of the series is to attract regional and national experts in Southern history and culture to Macon to speak on their respective fields of Southern history.
MACON CIVIC CLUB REVUE SPOTLIGHTS DOWNTOWN
In its 56th year, the Macon Civic Club’s largesse has grown to benefit multiple charities in Macon plus those earmarked to receive the net proceeds from each night’s performance. The show, once called a minstrel, has evolved to a musical production directed by Jim Crisp from Theatre Macon with choreography under the guidance of Sylvia Haynie and musical arrangements by Laura Voss. No longer is the cast dependent on recorded music — on stage is a band of accomplished musicians from Macon, many of them Civic Club members.
On Feb. 1, “Downtown,” the name given this year’s revue, opened with lead guitarist and vocalist Baxter James, and Rob Wilkin and George Greer on guitars, in “Let’s Get Down to Business,” just one of the songs selected as a tribute to Macon’s increasingly popular downtown.
Facades of the Hummingbird Stage and Taproom and of the Rookery flanked the bandstand as props for song and dance routines. From the orchestra pit, “funnymen” and “funnier ladies” shared jokes and banter between scenes in brief, burlesque cameos, a reminder of slapstick humor in the early days of television comedy.
Steve Solomon was a stand-out country crooner with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” before Nan Solomon, who always receives huge applause, took the stage for the theme song, “Downtown,” with back up trio Virginia Buzzell, Brent Gunn and Janet Walker.
The show stopper for the first act was Billy Walker in a medley, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” featuring Cam Bishop on piano and the full contingent in the bandstand. Walker has honed his talent beyond the amateur range and sings with the control of a trained vocalist, his presence and timing remarkable for someone who sings and acts for the fun of it!