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October 31, 2014

Artists in Action: The sweet sounds of spring

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Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014 12:20 am

Music finds many modes of expression. It can be inspiring and jubilant as performed today at 10:30 a.m. to celebrate Jimmy Roberts’ 35th year as organist and pianist at Anniston’s First United Methodist Church. Music also voices praise as seen in the Calhoun County Civic Chorale’s Spring concert April 6 at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church at 3 p.m. Directed by Patricia Corbin, it is a program that glorifies nature and the divine. Then on April 10, music entertains us, Broadway style, at Jacksonville Opera Theatre’s Classic Preview Night for JOT’s “Carousel” at Classic on Noble at 6:30 p.m.

Key notes of celebration

While coral and jade are the suggested gifts for a 35th wedding anniversary, for Roberts, an anniversary gift presented by his church is a jewel of much greater value: music. In store for the congregation (visitors are welcome) are two anthems the organist especially loves. With a homily by Woodfin Grove, pastor emeritus of FUMC who hired Roberts 35 years ago, the service will include the Wesley Bells, the Early Bird Choir and the Chancel Choir. Piano group The Lord’s Lefties will play “Eight Hands in Praise” by Alabama composer Joel Raney. Flutist Laura Fuller and classical guitarist Wendy Snellen will be featured as soloists later in the hour.

Kathy Murphy, director of music ministry at FUMC, praises Roberts’ versatility.

“He does all manner of classical as well as jazz arrangements,” she said. “In fact, he is the most versatile musician I have ever known on piano and organ, with great mastery, but humble, and just a nice person to be around.”

Roberts’ first musical love is sacred music. He stresses that although he can play a variety of styles, his goal is always to inspire the congregants, not to entertain. Notes and letters from over the years express that people in the sanctuary appreciate the worshipful quality of his music, and look forward to many more years of it.

Because the church’s 60 year-old organ is currently being rebuilt, four pianos are being used. The instrument’s return will be a day of rejoicing, especially for Roberts.

“I am excited about the Schlicker Pipe Organ’s new life,” Roberts said. “It is considered to be of historical value by the Organ Historical Society. Hopefully, that citation will become official in the very near future. This is one of the two Schlicker pipe organs in the state of Alabama.”

A reception follows the service. Everyone is invited.

Civic Chorale’s spring concert

Community members, JSU faculty and students will blend their voices in concert next Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s with the theme “In Praise of Nature and the Divine.” The concert will explore choral repertoire with texts that explore the connection between nature and spirituality.

The most prominent work on the program is English composer Benjamin Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb” with the text taken from a poem by 18th-century English poet Christopher Smart. The cantata represents a oneness with God by all created beings and things — animals and flowers, for example — each in its own way. Other choral settings of poetry by Robert Frost and other poets will be performed. Soloists featured are Ann Kerr, Kathy Murphy, Gavin Haynes, Lisa Metcalfe, Landon Shirey and Justin Westley.

There is no admission fee.

Meet the cast at JOT benefit

You’ve heard the songs. But you might not realize they are from “Carousel,” which JOT will present beginning May 2 at the Oxford Performing Arts Center. The familiar music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “If I Loved You” move the plot from a New England amusement park to clambakes on nearby islands as romance blooms between Billy (Daniel Marchen), a carousel barker, and Julie (Noya Levy), a young mill worker.

The JOT’s Board of Directors’ Preview Night at Classic on Noble April 10 at 6:30 p.m., is a fundraiser for the ambitious production which has a cast of 19 named roles, 20 elementary children, an ensemble of 40 college students and a full orchestra. According to Nathan Wight, founder and director of JOT, it is the opera theater’s largest production to date.

The cost per person is $25 plus a $15 donation. For $50 or more, sit at the table with the performers or conductor. Make reservations by visiting www.jacksonvilleopera.org

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