'1940s Radio Hour'

Shannon Waits, Gavin Haynes and Kristi Nichols rehearse for Theatre of Gadsden’s production of ‘The 1940s Radio Hour.’

Finding Christmas early in the season is easily possible this week in two ways: Attend JSU’s A Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers concert today at 2:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Anniston, and see “The 1940s Radio Hour” by Theatre of Gadsden on the weekends of Nov. 30-Dec. 8 at Gadsden’s Ritz Theatre. Both keep the Christmas theme in celebrative and meditative ways, with words and music that matter this time of year.

The two JSU choirs in today’s performance have been rehearsing at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville instead of Mason Hall since the March 18 tornado. “The concert is important for them,” said Keith Moore, the program’s conductor. “It is their first performance since the tornado.”

Bayne Dobbins, director of the A Cappella Choir from the 1960s to 1980s, will be in the audience and will be recognized. The singers will perform compositions he introduced during his years as director. Also, the concert will be in memory of former director Patricia Corbin.

Among the selections is the dramatically beautiful and often played “Adagio for Strings” by American composer Samuel Barber, which was performed at the 1952 televised funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco as well as for the funeral of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945. Both the choral and strings versions will be played.

The Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still,” arranged by Norman Luboff, is also on the program, along with “What Child Is This?” and “I Wonder as I Wander,” played by pianists Rachel Park and Julio Barretto. respectively; and “Joy to the World” by the brass musicians, organ and kettledrums. Chris Henley is the organist.

It is a free concert. Everyone is invited.

‘The 1940s Radio Hour’ in Gadsden

The subject of World War II is a serious topic — but as long as “The 1940s Radio Hour” is a part of theater seasons, there are some lighter moments to enjoy in the larger picture. The plot centers around a very interesting mix of people back home who send their best wishes to the troops with a radio broadcast.

This play with music will be performed by Theatre of Gadsden on Nov. 30-Dec. 2 and Dec. 7-8. Because of conflicts with Christmas events, there will be two performances Dec. 8 and no performance Dec. 9. The evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. and the matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, and $15 for students, seniors and military. Groups of 10 or more get a discount.

Actors from Calhoun County in the cast are Gavin Haynes, Brian Jones, Hannah Culpepper and Luciana Fleming, all from Jacksonville.

The setting is Christmas Eve, 1942, inside a small radio station in New York City. We, the viewers, become the radio audience as the broadcast for military overseas presents a Christmas program with the musical hits of the time.

“It’s a look into our history,” said Mike Beecham, the play’s director. “It is nostalgic, patriotic and echoes from a simpler time.”

However, the characters are anything but simple. “Ginger,” portrayed by Kristi Nichols, is a waitress-turned-singer with a look like Betty Grable and a voice like Dinah Shore and Doris Day combined. “Pops Bailey,” portrayed by Harry Butler, is a grumpy stage doorkeeper who is also a racing bookie using the company phone. “Cliff” (David Jones), the producer, struggles with problems from his employees and is sometimes hysterical. “Biff” (Brian Jones) is a young trumpet player who will be leaving soon for the war.

Through it all, the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade show on Christmas Eve comes through loud and clear with showmanship and songs such as “That Old Black Magic,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Strike Up the Band.”

The Ritz Theatre is located at 310 N. 27th St. in Alabama City. For reservations, call 256-547-7469.

Oxford Christmas decorating contest

The annual City of Oxford Christmas Decorating Contest, sponsored by the Oxford Arts Council, begins today and ends on Dec. 15.

The awards presentation will be at the Oxford Performing Arts Center on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. along with the showing of the Christmas movie “Elf.” A reception for the winners is also planned. Nominations are encouraged and will be accepted at OPAC at 100 Choccolocco St. in Oxford or at oxfordpac.org/christmascontest.

The categories are:

  • Business

  • Lighting Award

  • Main Street

  • Most Beautiful

  • Most Christmas Spirit

  • Most Creative

  • Most Traditional

  • Reason for the Season

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.