In the mood for a melody? Two kinds of melodies will be heard in upcoming events that focus on classic songs: "South Pacific" by Theatre of Gadsden and Haydn’s "Lord Nelson Mass" by two Jacksonville State University choirs.
As William Wordsworth said in 1807: "The music in my mind I bore/Long after it was heard no more."
"South Pacific" will be presented Friday through April 9 at the Ritz Theatre in Gadsden, 310 Wall St. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.
The excitement felt by director Kathy Waldrup and cast members is understandable when the elements in this show are named.
The music is Richard Rodgers’ fine score and the lyrics are verses by Oscar Hammerstein; these were two of the most gifted men in the business.
The story is based on James Michener’s Polynesian war tales.
The cast members, from age 18 on up, are praised by Waldrup, and a large, dedicated orchestra is working hard.
Three roles are played by Calhoun County actors: Todd Dissinger as Emile de Becque, Dylan Hurst as Lt. Joseph Cable, and Robert Fowler as Commander William Harbison.
"These three actors have taken on their characters in a serious manner," Waldrop said. "They are very much interested in doing the very best that they can."
The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1949, centers on an American nurse stationed on a South Pacific island during World War II who falls in love with a middle-aged expatriate French plantation owner; her conflict is accepting his mixed-race children.
A second romance, between a U.S. lieutenant and a young Tonkinese woman, deals with his fears of the social reaction back home if he marries his Asian sweetheart.
Fowler, along with several cast members who appeared in "Mame" at TOG recently, wanted to return to the TOG stage. He had also worked under Waldrop’s direction in "Mary Poppins" (presented in Carrollton, Ga., in 2015) and wanted to work with her again.
"It will be a theater reunion of sorts for me," he said. "Besides this, I grew up listening to the songs in this musical and wanted to be involved. You’ll see exotic settings in this island world. But it’s a great story, too, with some heavy themes that are still timely today."
Connie Durham, director of music at Heflin First United Methodist Church, is the show’s musical director. She has directed many musical productions in Anniston, Gadsden and Birmingham.
Jeremy Benson, who conducts the orchestra, is professor of music at JSU, where he also conducts the JSU Opera Theatre productions and teaches flute, flute choir and music history.
For reservations, call 256-547-7469. Individual tickets are $17 and may be purchased at the door. For more information, visit theatreofgadsden.org.
JSU choirs present spring concert
On April 2 at 3 p.m. at Anniston First United Methodist Church, the Jacksonville State University a Cappella Choir and the Calhoun County Civic Chorale will join forces to present their spring concert.
The featured works are Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis in D Minor (better known as "Lord Nelson Mass") and Vaughan Williams "Serenade to Music."
The choirs are under the direction of Patricia Corbin, JSU director of choral activities, and will be accompanied by an orchestra of professional and student instrumentalists, as well as the choir’s accompanist, LornaLee Curtis.
Featured soloists will also be on the program.
Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed the Missa in Angustiis ("Mass in Time of Distress") for his patrons, the Hungarian Esterhazy family, in 1798 during the Napoleonic wars. It has been nicknamed the "Lord Nelson Mass" due to Haydn’s admiration of the British Admiral Horatio Nelson and his victory at Aboukir against Napoleon around the time of the first performance.
British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) wrote "Serenade to Music" in honor of the Jubilee celebration of conductor Sir Henry J. Wood, best known for his association with London’s annual series of promenade concerts, known as "the Proms." The text is taken from Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice."
Haydn’s work contains graceful classic melodies from the soloists and chorus juxtaposed with delicate orchestral figuration and soldier-like elements, especially from the trumpets and timpani, according to Corbin.
"The soprano solos are especially notable as they call for some flashy vocal fireworks that are divided between between three of my most advanced collegiate sopranos," Corbin said.
"The ‘Serenade to Music’ is kind of a balancing act to the Haydn. It has lush orchestration, lyrical statements from the choir and features many of my soloists. The text speaks to the importance and appreciation of music for our souls."
Tickets for this performance are $8 for general admission and $5 for students and youth ages 17 and under. Tickets will be sold in advance in the JSU David L. Walters Department of Music or at the door. For more information, call the JSU Office of Choral Activities, 256-782-5544.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.