Macon Pops getting national attention

You might not expect to hear a Katy Perry song at a concert where professional musicians are on stage playing original arrangements.

For Macon Pops, there are no limitations.

Instead of a formal concert hall, a 40-piece band made up of strings, percussion, brass and woodwinds will sit on risers in the City Auditorium.

“We’re not really calling ourselves an orchestra. We’re just Macon Pops,” said Steve Moretti, the organization’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

Popular music concerts performed by orchestras are not a new concept, but Moretti said no one has done it quite like Macon Pops. The concerts feel more like a nightclub than a symphony, with table and balcony seating, food, drinks, a video screen, special lighting and dancing.

Macon Pops is a new model for pops concerts that’s attracting attention from others across the industry, Moretti said.

“We’re kind of a beacon, in a way, for Macon on an international stage. (We’ve) really been working hard to bring Macon back to a music town, and (Macon Pops) is one component of it.”

Macon Pops will kick off its second season Sept. 6 with “Dancing Through the Decades Part II,” featuring popular songs from the 1940s through 2014.

For the upcoming concert, Matt Catingub, co-founder of Macon Pops and a Grammy Award-winning arranger, orchestrated a range of songs by older artists such as Glenn Miller and Aretha Franklin, as well as songs by newer artists such as Pharrell Williams and John Mayer. His arrangements will debut at the Macon Pops concert before getting performed by orchestras around the world.

Singer Anita Hall, who performed at “Dancing Through the Decades Part I” last year, will be back on stage. Catingub called Hall “an incredibly versatile vocalist.”

Hall, who regularly sings at pops concerts and other events across the country, said she’s looking forward to returning.

“I felt like I went back in time when I went to Macon,” she said. “People are genuinely nice.”

Unlike other places she has performed, she said she isn’t worried that the Macon audience won’t dance.

“Hypothetically speaking, if no one got up and danced, that would break my heart,” she said. “Because there’s an exchange of energy that happens that I don’t get when I do (typical) concerts. ... There is just such a tangible electricity that’s in the room.”

Moretti said there have been so many great hits over the decades that he may start every Macon Pops season with the same theme. Also, a third dance floor is being added this year.

“There’s a demand for a floor for ballroom dancers,” he said. “I didn’t realize this, but there’s a big ballroom dancing community between (Macon) and Warner Robins.”


The second concert on Nov. 1, titled “Classically Jazzed,” will feature the world premiere of “Three Shades Of Blue.” Catingub said he composed the work for Amy Schwartz Moretti, Steve Moretti’s wife and director of Mercer University’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings.

“It’s a real contemporary take on classical music,” Catingub said of the piece. “That’s probably an indication that we’re starting to spread our wings musically.”

Because of the music he arranged and composed for the concert, Catingub said he will need about 12 extra musicians.

The last concert of the season, on Feb. 28, is titled “Celebrate the Music of Macon.” The concert will highlight music that has come from Macon, been inspired by Macon and music that is currently in Macon. The Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles are among the artists who will be featured, Moretti said, as well as songs from musicians such as hip-hop artist Floco Torres. The Redding brothers, Dexter and Otis III, will be special guests.

“We have a rich music history,” Moretti said. “But I think we’re at the point where we need to create that history that we’ll look back (at) 15 years from now.”

For most concerts, Macon Pops is made up of the same group of musicians from across the Southeast. Each person is hand-picked and hired per performance. The professionals rehearse together for the first time on the afternoon before the performance.

When selecting musicians, Catingub said talent is important, but he also looks for the right attitude and a willingness to play something out of the norm.

Violinist Jonathan Wright of Decatur fits the bill.

“I enjoy the fact that there’s a big band feel to Macon Pops,” Wright said. “I enjoy the intensity level and the energy level that (the music) demands of its players.

“When you’re doing music that’s that in-your-face, so to speak, you’ve got to bring your A game.”

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.