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29 May 2007
Dinner and Some ... Music

By Steve Ivey
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra performed Saturday night for Music at McClellan. The concert featured selections from ASO conductor Justin Brown. Photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star.

A year’s worth of culture would suit Dorothy Jane Nisbet just fine.

Nisbet attended Saturday night‘s opening of Music at McClellan’s fourth season.

“We need cultural events like this to attract more people here,” said Nisbet, of Jacksonville.

“This draws a broad spectrum. It’s less formal, and everyone feels like they can come. We need to support the ones we have, but we need more.”

Saturday’s concert by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra drew several hundred to the former military fort, though the audience appeared slightly down from last year’s average of 800 for the four-performance series.

“This has become a well-oiled machine,” said Pete Conroy, chairman of the Music at McClellan committee.

“The volunteers know what they’re doing, and folks got here earlier this year than in the past. The park looks filled with chairs and picnics.”

Prior to the 8 p.m. ASO concert, listeners got a taste of some other local musicians. Jim Marsh, of local band Distant Cousins, roamed the crowd with his banjo. The Jaxpan Steel Drum Band also offered their unique Caribbean sounds as visitors staked out a seat and unfolded their lawn chairs and beach blankets.

Jugglers also entertained before the music, and mimes again were on hand to direct traffic.

Saturday’s kickoff concert was billed as “Maestro’s Choice,” with selections from ASO conductor Justin Brown.

The program included Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Arthur Benjamin’s “Jamaican Rumba” and Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” a fitting choice for graduation season.

In keeping with the upcoming holiday, retired Col. Mark Pentecost introduced the orchestra. The 1975 graduate of Jacksonville State University’s ROTC program was a 2006 inductee to the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.

He asked the audience to be mindful of this Memorial Day weekend.

“I can’t think of a better place, or a better night,” he said.

Beth and Larry Daugherty, of Pell City, had attended the first Music at McClellan concert in 2004, when the series began to provide a summer home for the ASO.

They returned Saturday to celebrate Larry’s 61st birthday with a cake as part of their pre-concert picnic.

“We had been a long time ago and decided to come back,” he said. “We’re classical music lovers.”

Jeremy and Michael Stringer, brothers in the Jacksonville High School band, said business had been brisk at their Tote for Tips stands.

Members of the band offered to carry chairs, coolers and anything else to the lawn.

The band members hoped to raise money to uniforms and for their band camp later this summer.

The evening concert capped off a hazy Saturday, the first of the summer season. While recent weather had left the grounds dry and dusty, Conroy said fire trucks came by Saturday morning to spray the lawn to keep dust down.

Also this year, volunteers put down solar-powered lamps along paths to the park, a change from the torches of years past.

“Probably a good move,” Conroy said, referring to the dry conditions. “We’re trying to make it environmentally friendly.”

Next Saturday’s show is “The Orchestra Strikes Back,” with selections from the Star Wars movies. Members of the 501 Legion, a troupe of Star Wars re-enactors, will parade the grounds in their favorite movie costumes.

About Steve Ivey

Steve Ivey covers education for The Star.

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