For the third performance of the Macon Pops' third season on Feb. 19 at the City Auditorium, the audience was taken on a retrospective journey to the origins and components of "Songs of the Soul."
In this country, "soul music" was given the name in the mid-20th century to identify songs rooted in black culture and history, their lyrics documenting stories of oppression in their native countries and in the segregated U.S. and of hope for a brighter future. Some of those first songs expressed a joyful frenzy, with spirited improvisational dancing and colorful costumes -- always accompanied by whatever musical instrument could be found.
The Macon Pops' tribute to one of the most influential genres in modern music was doubly significant for February, the month that black history is celebrated.
Pam and Andy Young reserved a table close to the stage to see grandson Thomas Young sit in with the orchestra on guitar when conductor Matt Catingub opened the set with a custom arrangement of Carlos Santana's "Smooth," fulfilling an auction prize for Debra Rollins, not to mention inducing moves on the dance floor that could have undermined the foundation of that historic building! Who can sit still to Santana's Latin beat?
FROM BLUES TO JAZZ TO RHYTHM AND BLUES
Catingub, who wears many hats on stage, took a break from the keyboard and the baton to sing "God Bless the Child," Billie Holiday's gospel-laced, 1941 song of praise to the child "who's got his own." After his performance, he introduced guest vocalist Taryn Horne, who erased the melancholy with "Chain of Fools," from the queen of soul herself Aretha Franklin, a tune driven by the drumbeat from Steve Moretti, co-founder of Macon Pops.
Horne, a jazz singer, was well equipped for her rendition of Etta James' signature "At Last," which brought a round of applause from the packed house.
Stevie Wonder released "Higher Ground" on his 1973 album, "Innervisions," which he recorded after an automobile accident rendered him in a coma, an experience which left him more reflective and introspective about life. Playing every instrument featured on the track -- even taking over the drums -- his paean to survival took the song to No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Soul Single Chart.
Catingub and Moretti brought that same synergy to Horne's "Higher Ground" before Catingub and Horne teamed up for a Stevie Wonder medley that closed the first set.
A NEW GENERATION OF MUSICIANS
Local hip-hop artist Floco Torres opened the second half with "Celebration," originally recorded in 2012 by the rapper Game, book-ending a medley of rap songs with "Catch Me," a departure to the rap genre by Nicki Minaj in 2010.
The latest listing in the index of soul music to gain widespread popularity, rap or hip-hop was a novelty in the 1970s with its recording trickery and rhyming lyrics, sung to a staccato beat. Torres continues to pursue his hip-hop career after positive reception of his online recordings.
Macon Pops introduced its All Star Gospel Choir, members of which were recruited from local churches and from the Otis Redding Foundation's musicians. With versatile talent, Torres was part of the choir that closed the concert with gospel favorites under the direction of Levita Carter, music director for Unionville Missionary Baptist Church.
The audience could not resist singing along to the 18th century hymn, "Oh Happy Day," recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1967 and an international gospel hit by 1969.
A RETICENT ARTIST REVEALED
Rebecca Rankin has admired Paul Hamill's paintings for years, often suggesting he display them locally, but with little success. Taking the bull by the horns, Rankin refused to take no for an answer any longer, removed her art work from the walls and staged the first ever exhibit of Hamill's work at her home on Feb. 20.
Rankin's friends and art patrons were invited to see Hamill's technique with some of his contemporary water colors -- layering paint with a palette knife, the results of which have the intensity of oil on canvas. Having painted for his own enjoyment all of his life, he never found it necessary to give titles to the paintings, instead explaining where he painted each one or what inspired him to do so.
There were images that evoked familiar locations in Middle Georgia, glorious fall colors or water scenes; others were abstract studies of shapes and colors. Hamill also likes working in oil, which he uses primarily for his impressionist landscapes, or, in pencil and charcoal, especially for portraits.
In a matter of hours, the bemused painter watched as "sold" stickers meant he could no longer live in comfortable obscurity, thanks to the persistence of his good friend.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon, Contact her at 478-742-2224 or email@example.com.