Ceramics by Betty Mills Groover

Paintings and ceramics by Betty Mills Groover are on display at Nunnally’s in Anniston.

Hearing the triumphant tones of the organ — the king of instruments — can be inspiring, especially in the realm of sacred music.

Such sounds will be heard today at 2:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Anniston, when organist Katie Loudermilk gives a free concert as a part of the Soli Deo Gloria Concert Series.

Loudermilk is from Waco, Texas. She was exposed to music at an early age when her mother, an elementary school music teacher and part-time church organist, took her and her younger brother with her to organ practice and choir rehearsals.

However, it was not until Katie was 13 years old that she began her study of the organ, after her parents finally bought her a practice instrument.

After she graduated from high school, she attended Baylor University. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in organ performance at the University of Alabama, where she has also performed in master classes.

In the spring of 2015, she won the National Federation of Music Clubs’ collegiate competition in organ.

Loudermilk’s program today includes some of the earliest works for organists, composed by Bach and Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger, an eminent German organist, teacher and composer. She will also perform "Partita on Jesu" by German composer Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. To close the recital on a lighter note, Loudermilk will play "Rumba" by 20th-century composer Robert Elmore, which shows off the organ’s theatrical mood with lots of pedal work.

New art exhibit, book-signing at Nunnally’s

There are two reasons to be at the exhibit opening this afternoon at Nunnally’s Noble Street Frame and Gallery in downtown Anniston. From noon-3 p.m., visual art presented by East Alabama Artists will be on view, plus Anniston writer Kimberly O’Dell will be in the gallery to sign copies of her latest book, "Anniston Revisited."

Betty Mills Groover is the featured artist of this exhibit, which will continue through April. Her collection includes oil paintings and clay works. Her oils are derived from landscapes, she said, but are somewhat abstract in style. Her clay works contain an undertone of ecology.

Because there are so many artists producing works today and because similar ideas and techniques have already been used, creativity and imagination are essential in the artist’s process, Groover said. "You have to create something a little new, a little different and somewhat unique."

Groover sees a close relationship between creative artists and scientists. "I’ve always thought the two are first cousins," she said. "In art, the final product comes from experiments and discovery."

Historian and educator Kimberly O’Dell has put together a book of archival photographs and short histories that shape the character of Anniston from the 1870s to the 1980s. The book focuses on the town’s business district, life and arts, as well as on communities outside the city limits.

A report card on ‘Nutcracker’ ballet

Even after 34 years, "The Nutcracker" generates lots of excitement and activity in the greater Anniston area.

A reception Jan. 21 made note of the latest ways Knox has built audiences. Here’s one reason the ballet has continued for so long: "Besides the cast on stage, there is a cast of 150 hands-on volunteers with the Knox Concert Series who make the event happen," said executive director Patricia Smith.

One of these newer volunteers, Brenda Shaw, is in her second year as the ballet co-chairman, alongside Betsy Davis. In Shaw’s opinion, marketing especially achieved new dynamics this past December.

"We partnered with Main Street in Anniston and entered a float in the parade," said Shaw. "We also helped decorate the Santa’s Workshop on Noble Street. And our float was in the Oxford parade."

Ticket sales were up, she added, "which fueled the bake sale and a boutique shop of unique nutcrackers and ornaments."

The ballet was seen free of charge by 1,729 third graders representing 24 schools. The educational outreach was effective if the students’ reactions are any measure of success.

"We watched them," Davis said. "They seemed to know the story. They were really into it."

Another new twist was the raffle for a 6-foot-tall nutcracker statue (the idea originated with Art Moore).

The letters to underwriters from the students tell it all. "The ballerinas did not talk to us, they talked to us by dancing," wrote Jay Lambert from DeArmanville Elementary School.

Sin Sibrer from Pleasant Valley School wrote that her favorite part was "everything."

Contact Hervey Folsom at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.