The Columbus Choral Society presents a Mothers Day concert at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Columbus Arts Council’s Rosenzweig Arts Center gallery at 501 Main St. Members in this April 27 photo are, front row from left, Katherine Long, Robin Holzer, Tamie Adams, Martha Blackwell, Marilyn Hood, Kristy Coombes and Alisa Toy. On the second row are Pam Bullock, Royal Toy, Ron Losure, Hal Bullock, Amy King and Kevin Voller. Behind them are Tina Morgan, Lori Pierce, Sarah Pogue, Evan Whitehouse, Gregg Havens, Butch Dollar, Deb Shelton and Glenda Gross. At top are Stephen Maykowski, Roger Burlingame and Michael Dodson. Photo by: Courtesy photo
May 7, 2014 9:58:48 AM
Mothers Day takes a musical turn Sunday when the Columbus Choral Society presents "A Musical Treat for Mom." The 2 p.m. concert in the Rosenzweig Arts Center main gallery will celebrate mothers, and help send members of the choral group to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall June 8.
A YouTube video is the catalyst that led to the Choral Society's prestigious invitation to the famous venue. It was on YouTube that composer James Purifoy discovered the group's performance of an excerpt from his "Chronicles of Blue and Gray." Purifoy, impressed, recommended the choir be invited to join with other Distinguished Concerts International New York City singers to present the New York premiere of "Chronicles."
"We've been doing everything we can to help make the trip possible for everyone who can and wants to go," said Alisa Toy, director of the Choral Society.
Admission to the May 11 performance is $5. Additional donations are most welcome, said Toy. All proceeds benefit the trip effort.
Following refreshments after the choral program, the husband-wife/guitar-cello duo Honeyboy and Boots will perform. Drew Blackwell (Honeyboy) is the son of Choral Society member Martha Blackwell.
"He's doing it as a present for his mom," explained Toy.
The Choral Society's repertoire for Sunday includes "a few funny Mothers Day spoof-type things, and we'll have some poem readings," said Toy. The group will also perform the excerpt from "Chronicles of Blue and Gray."
Blue and Gray
The connection between the music and Columbus is a strong one. Purifoy's composition is a "musical setting" of Frances Miles Finch's poem "The Blue and the Gray." Finch was inspired to write it after reading about Columbus ladies who placed flowers on both Confederate and Union graves at Friendship Cemetery right after the Civil War. Many contend the act inspired Decoration Day, later called Memorial Day.
Toy was unaware of that local history tie when she originally brought the piece to the choir.
"I just read the poem and thought it was gorgeous," said the director. "When they heard it, there were members of the choir in tears, saying, 'Do you realize how amazing this is?'"
The excerpt is part of Purifoy's larger "Chronicles," which weaves folk songs, spirituals and rallying and battle cries with texts from Abraham Lincoln's Inaugurals, the Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation, chronicles of battle casualties and recollections of Grant's and Lee's meeting at Appomattox. Choral Society members are busy learning the entire composition for Carnegie Hall.
"I was listening to the recording and trying to sing along this afternoon," said singer Ron Losure Tuesday. "I just hope I'm able to keep from crying during the performance, because it's a very emotional piece." Losure produced the YouTube video, complete with his photography from Friendship Cemetery and other sites, that caught Purifoy's attention.
Purifoy has expressed pleasure at having singers from Mississippi take part in the New York premiere, bringing a perspective only Southerners can have to the spirit of the songs, Toy relayed.
The May 11 Mothers Day concert will be the Choral Society's last public performance before the New York trip.
"Sunday will be a musical treat for the senses," Toy said. "We hope everyone will enjoy a special afternoon with mom while supporting the choir's concert in Carnegie Hall."
The Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center is located at 501 Main St.
Tax-deductible donation checks should be made out to CREATE/LCF with CCS in the memo line and sent to the Columbus Choral Society, attention Lori Pierce, 1514 Forrest Hill Drive, Columbus, MS 39701-3500.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.