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A season of firsts

Mary Persons High School choral director Charles Hernandez leads the chorus as the perform for the The Ten Tenors during a Master Class in the Monroe County Board of Education Auditorium on Dec. 15. The Ten Tenors later performed at the Monroe County Fine Arts Center.
Mary Persons High School choral director Charles Hernandez leads the chorus as the perform for the The Ten Tenors during a Master Class in the Monroe County Board of Education Auditorium on Dec. 15. The Ten Tenors later performed at the Monroe County Fine Arts Center. jvorhees@macon.com

The Monroe County Fine Arts Center, in Forsyth, has been open since January of this year. In that brief time, the center has hosted prominent names in the entertainment industry, among them Taylor Hicks, John Berry and Peter Noone. Additionally, the new performance venue provides a stage for the Mary Persons High School Choir which has been the recipient of awards throughout the state and the southeast for its level of excellence in its repetorie.

On Friday, December 15, the choir opened Home for the Holidays, a concert featuring The Ten Tenors, 10 Australians with talent that filled the 5,000 square feet stage with choreography and with musical arrangements reminiscent of Broadway. On their world tour this year, the popular Aussies selected Forsyth as the only location for a concert in Georgia, a feather in its cap for the first year at the new fine arts center.

The arts center, under the auspices of the Monroe County Board of Education, is not only used by and for local school events, but is attracting audiences from around the state for concerts that usually appear in larger towns. The new center can comfortably seat over 1,000 people; the amphitheater seating provides a good seat anywhere in the auditorium and the digital audio system creates surround sound throughout the facility.

The entertaining troupe of tenors performed seasonal songs plus crowd pleasing selections from the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, pop and from the big screen. Their sense of humor poked a little gentle fun at Georgians – about our fondness for Waffle House waffles, for one – and did not take themselves too seriously: “This is a medley dedicated to the divas of rock,” they announced as they launched into a falsetto tribute to Cher, romped through Aretha Franklin’s songs and crooned Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

They had the house in the collective palm of their hand with their rendition of part of the sound track from Frankie Valli and “The Jersey Boys.” It was hard to believe the fast paced concert, part classical Christmas carols and hymns, deftly mixed with popular music, lasted more than two hours, with a rousing encore.

A nod to a home grown artist was the tenors’ powerful but reverent interpretation of “Mary, Did You Know,” the music for which was written by Maconite Buddy Greene with lyrics by Mark Lowry. Although Greene does not live in Macon, he cannot come back for a performance without his audiences expecting him to play the Christmas song, no matter what the season.

According to Patrick Hamilton, events coordinator for the Monroe County Fine Arts Center, there were almost 800 people attending the one night performance by The Ten Tenors, and many of those people were not from Forsyth. Hamilton continues to expand his networking to include a variety of artistic genres that will appeal to different audiences. For the first year, the center and Hamilton, deserve kudos for drawing attention to a well equipped arts facility that is a practical and an architectural asset to Forsyth and to Middle Georgia.

The light shows

Seeing ornaments and lights draped over houses and shrubbery is nothing new in Macon – there are traffic jams in some neighborhoods trying to get a peek at the lavish, sometimes garish, displays. This year was different.

The Poplar Street Light Show, with background music, was so popular (no grammatical pun intended) that reservations at downtown restaurants were scarce during the weeks leading up to Christmas. After seeing it once, and thinking maybe I had not seen the entire show, I returned December 22 with out of town guests to have dinner and to see the production one more time.

The lighting is fantastic; however, if the music is supposed to be synchronized to the lights, or vice versa, there is room for improvement. If the powers that be, in the Poplar Park Christmas Light Project, could slow the movement of the lights, to be less frenetic, the entire experience would be more fun. My guests, former Maconites, were happy to see Macon’s progress in increasing the draw to downtown for dining and for entertainment, but agreed that the light show, which was well attended, could use some fine tuning. In the new year, Macon can make that happen!

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

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