Living Columns & Blogs

Musical McDuffie family a living legacy

A mural thought gone has been re-created by the original artist with a little help from his friends and a lift from a mechanical friend not available two decades ago.
A mural thought gone has been re-created by the original artist with a little help from his friends and a lift from a mechanical friend not available two decades ago. Special to The Telegraph

Through the efforts of the Morning Music Club, the musical McDuffie family presented “A Family Affair,” a free concert at Porter Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 9, to more than 1,000 friends and fans from Macon and from cities as far away as Nashville, Tennessee.

The light-hearted program included Susan, daughter Margery Whatley, twin granddaughters, Kendall and Lindsay Whatley, son Robert and grandson, Baxter James.

The evening was filled not only with excellent performances, but sprinkled with conversation among the featured artists, and with the audience, about their selections.

The program opened with Susan playing the famous organ composition, Toccata in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, a treat for the audience that is more accustomed to hearing her on piano, except in a church, where she serves as guest organist on occasion.

The lively Bach piece was followed by Novelette No. 1 in C Major by Poulenc, a complex piano sonata played by Margery who is on the faculty of Birmingham Southern College and of the Conservatory, in Alabama. Her second selection was Valse-Caprice in E flat major by Anton Rubinstein, appropriately named with its playful staccato.

Margery’s twins, who have performed publicly since they were very small, played Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano,” continuing the program’s fast paced fun. Each had the opportunity to showcase their skills later in the program, with Kendall playing George Gershwin’s Prelude No. 1 and with Lindsay playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2.

“It Ain’t Necessarily So,” by George Gershwin was one of the pieces played by Margery and Robert, followed by his tribute to his mother for her perseverance in insisting he religiously practice the violin, which led to his international presence as a virtuoso violinist and to the McDuffie School for Strings, at Mercer University.

Robert has played many genres of music, having appeared with the Macon Pops, and with Mike Mills of REM fame, to name a few, so his duet with Baxter, an accomplished guitarist, was no surprise. Susan and daughter Margery, on piano, brought down the house with “Serpent’s Kiss” from William Bolcom’s “The Garden of Eden,” playfully hissing at each other during the performance!

An informal poll of the audience indicated that Robert’s “How Great Thou Art,” accompanied by his mother on piano, was the crowd favorite. Susan ended the program with four Gershwin favorites on piano, a reminder that she is still the star in the McDuffie firmament.

Resurrecting an icon at the Capricorn Center

On Earth Day in 1996, John Wilson, local Earth Day activist, encouraged his friend Michael Pierce to paint a mural on the exterior walls of the former Capricorn Studio on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. With permission granted by the owner of the property, Pierce worked around the clock for seven days to complete the abstract, predominantly black and white, mural on the side and back elevations.

With the purchase of the property by Mercer University and with the development of the Capricorn Center, which includes retail space and lofts, by Sierra Development and principal Jim Daws, the mural was removed during demolition. Pierce had a poster of the old mural and thought that image would be the lone memento of his arduous work until Daws asked that he reproduce the memorable icon on the newly renovated building.

After Daws’s paint crew had primed the space, Wilson stepped up, 21 years later, and had his paint crew apply the base coat. Since beginning the mural about two weeks ago, Pierce has had the expert help of muralist, Angela Henigman, of artist John Mollica, known among his friends as JoMo, and of his cousin, Phillip Pierce who handles the materials for him.

Photographer David Byrd has been on site each day, recording with his camera the progress on the mural which will be slightly larger than the original, extending around the back to adjoin the new building which houses the lofts. “Jim Daws offered me a scissor lift which I first declined,” Pierce said, laughing, “and now I know that it has saved me many, many hours.” The mural should be completed by Monday, Nov. 20, according to Pierce.

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