Living Columns & Blogs

Maestro begins new traditions in MSO’s 40th season

Last Saturday’s concert at the Grand Opera House was the proverbial candles on the birthday cake for the Macon Symphony Orchestra’s continued celebration of its 40th season.

Appropriately named “Friends Old and New,” the concert’s first selection was Symphony in C by Georges Bizet, a composition written in 1855 when Bizet was 17 years old, but premiered 80 years later when it was given to his biographer. Although Bizet never mentioned the symphony to anyone, it is now considered a masterpiece in the romantic symphonic compositions.

The second selection, Concerto for Oboe No. 3 in G minor, written by George Frideric Handel, featured the principal oboist for the MSO since 1981, Thomas Underwood, who played the four movements — from the solemn first to the lively staccato of the third movement — in triple meter, much like a Latin dance accompanied by castanets, ending the first half of the concert with popular music of the 18th century.

Underwood was accompanied by the symphony’s new conductor Gerald Steichen on harpsichord, a rare treat for the audience that does not often see the instrument, which predates the piano, as part of the orchestra.

Contemporary favorites from stage and screen dominated the second half of the concert with the brass and percussion sections completing the orchestra for “Buckaroo Holiday,” one of the dance sequences from the 1942 ballet, “Rodeo,” scored by Aaron Copland. Julius Fucik’s “Entrance of the Gladiators,” an early 20th century composition, is best known as the familiar march heard at circuses to introduce the clowns and relies on the woodwinds and brass for its pompous flourishes.

The tribute to Louis Armstrong, “Satchmo,” arranged by Ted Ricketts, comprehensively covered the career of the man who made New Orleans the home of jazz. On trumpet, Chris Probst reminded the audience of the distinctive voice that was as much a part of Armstrong’s persona as his famous horn.

The medley of songs from “My Fair Lady” evoked images from the 1964 movie with Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, and the lively repartee between the disdainful teacher and his earnest student and the ending that left everyone questioning who got the pretty cockney girl.

Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” continued the romantic interlude, the spell broken with highlights from the soundtrack of “Jurassic Park,” the fascinating classic from composer John Williams. Steichen mentioned prior to the performance the skill with which Williams equally conveys fright and the wonderment of discovery in his musical score.

The concert was well received by an enthusiastic audience that has heartily embraced the versatility of the new maestro.


Following the success of Volume I, “Let’s Get Cooking,” in 2010, Rebuilding Macon has collected recipes from some of Middle Georgia’s finest eateries for a second cookbook, “We’re Still Cooking,” just in time for readers to jazz up their holiday dinners.

Some of the area restaurants represented are Aubri Lane’s in Milledgeville, Parish on Cherry, the Swanson and the Perfect Pear in Perry and Grits Café in Forsyth. Old standbys like H&H in Macon are included in the colorful cookbook, which features biographies of the chefs who prepared the special dishes.

If you have missed Market City Café, pick up the cookbook at one of the holiday markets to read about the latest venture from the owners of the now shuttered café, Don Bivings and Pino Mauro, who own and manage Burke Mansion, an elegant bed and breakfast inn on Georgia Avenue. Try one of the recipes from the latest addition to downtown Macon’s watering holes, Bearfoot Tavern.

Read the stories of each chef and the journey to owning a restaurant or to working as a top chef in the five-alarm atmosphere of good food service. The stories are humorous and the photographs accompanying the recipes are mouth watering images of the artistically prepared plates.

The mission of the non-profit team, led by Debra Rollins, is to rebuild houses and to rebuild lives through collaboration with volunteers and businesses in the community. They have used the same approach, with great response from area restaurants, according to development director Emma Fiorini, in asking chefs to donate recipes and personal information to a fundraising cookbook project to raise money for improving lives and living standards for low-income residents of Macon, a mission that will celebrate 25 years in 2017.

The excellent photography by Beau Cabell and the foreword by Ed Grisamore make this book as attractive as a table top accessory as it is useful for gastronomic pleasure. Grisamore, in his usual homespun style, relates the longstanding tradition of handing down family recipes.

Happy Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or