The Oscars paled in comparison to the stellar personalities who visited Macon last weekend! On Feb. 21 at Beulahland Bible Church, Pastor Carlos Kelly shared his excitement with the audience, of about 2,000, for the momentous “Evening of Words and Music” staged at Beulahland.
Robert McDuffie collaborated with writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith to pay tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose prolific writings about his philosophy of non-violent protest to combat racial injustice were the essence of the theme for the evening -- “Actions Count. Words Matter. Music Heals.”
The event also celebrated the grand opening of the McDuffie Center for Strings, part of the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University, located in the restored Bell House on College Street.
McDuffie is also world renowned as the founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy. He brought with him 21 of his students who equipped themselves well performing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings from String Quartet Op. 11 as the introduction to the evening. Elizabeth Pridgen, distinguished artist and piano chair at the McDuffie Center, was more subdued than usual in her performance of Philip Glass’ Glassworks, which segued to Smith’s reading of “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” written by King when he was incarcerated during the racial turbulence in that Alabama city in April 1963.
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McDuffie’s accompaniment, playing solo, included touching reminders of social and political strife throughout history such as “Theme from Schindler’s List” and “Ashokan Farewell,” the theme music for the 1990 PBS miniseries about the Civil War.
The letter was written on the margins of saved newspapers and, according to archived accounts of King’s time in jail, smuggled out to be published. Considering the length of the letter, it is miraculous it survived and was legible. For 45 minutes, Smith interpreted the pathos of King’s melancholy and disappointment in fellow white clergy in Birmingham, eight of whom had written an open letter to King and his peaceful demonstrators advising them that the movement was “unwise and untimely.”
King’s passion and commitment to a peaceful resolution to racial injustice and his frustration with the fear of both blacks and whites to effect positive change in societal attitudes were powerfully conveyed by Smith’s facial expressions and body language in her narrator role, one which should forever enhance the importance of black history for Macon.
SPREADING THE WORD
A group of travel writers were in Macon the same weekend as guests of the College Hill Alliance to chronicle and spread the word of Macon’s successes in reviving the city. Jessica Walden Weatherford hosted Lysa Allman-Baldwin from Kansas City, Kansas, Andy and Irv Green from Denver, Colorado, Apryl Chapman Thomas from Watkinsville and Pam Keene from Atlanta.
The journalists were charmed by Macon’s musical legacy and the development in the College Hill Corridor, but considered the evening at Beulahland Bible Church the centerpiece of their weekend in Macon. Ruth Sykes, director of media relations for Laurie Rowe Communications, who brought the writers to town, made sure their itinerary included the newest jewel in the crown of the Intown Historic District, the home of the McDuffie Center for Strings.
COOL JAZZ ON A COOL NIGHT
Wesleyan College sponsors the Lamar Lecture Series each year to bring writers, musicians and artists to the campus for free lectures and performances. On Monday evening, tenor saxophonist John Ellis and his Doublewide Band played their New Orleans jazz with a touch of funk and Southern gothic in Porter Auditorium.
Considering Ellis’ reputation in jazz circles, the house should have been packed. Ellis is a fixture at some of the country’s most popular jazz festivals such as Newport, Boston and New Orleans. A native of North Carolina, Ellis now lives in Brooklyn where he writes much of the music he plays. The titles are full of satire and many times pay tribute to his favorite cities, like “Three-Legged Tango in Jackson Square,” a big hit in the Big Easy.
For other Lamar Lecture Series programs, visit www.wesleyancollege.edu.
By this time next week, Historic Macon Foundation’s Design, Wine and Dine Festival will be but a fond memory. However, the Design House, which opens with a preview party Thursday, will be open to the public through March 15 in the renovated Elizabeth Reed building next door to the Rookery on Cherry Street.
If you have been forced to dodge construction equipment or been puzzled by the graffiti on that big black box blocking the entrance at the alley, now is your chance to see an elegantly designed condominium with three residences for sale.
Contact Historic Macon for more information and tickets to both events.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or email@example.com.