December 14, 2006

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if Memphis was known for its music? Of course big Memphis is known as the home of the Blues and also lays claim to Elvis. While we don't have Graceland or Beale Street, little Memphis, located in northeast Missouri, has plenty of melodious memory makers that serve as calling cards for our little hometown.

This past week proved that fact. Christmastime comes earlier and earlier each year. While some of us may not feel the need for the stores to switch to red and green so early, most won't complain about the transition into Christmas music.

The community got some of the first tastes of the caroling here in Memphis last week when the elementary school hosted its Christmas program. These youngsters will lay the groundwork for the future performers. The production is always top notch and is a credit to the school district, the instructors and the performers.

The first time I attended one of these annual shows, I was amazed to see folks showing up so early to insure a seat. Even if every single parent and grandparent attended, it wouldn't take up half the seats. Yet every year that place is packed to the rafters. I don't want to get the fire marshal after us for overfilling the public forum, but if you have not seen one of these performances in a while, you don't know what you are missing. There is something about kids, Christmas music, and a little bit of laughter that can cure whatever ails you.

Well, if you missed that performance, there was still plenty of opportunities to get your music fix.

The Memphis Community Players put on a pair of shows on Friday and Saturday night, drawing from the plethora of area musical talent to build a cast of characters to entertain with the G.I. Holiday Jukebox. The performers combined a little acting, portraying members of the armed forces offering a USO style concert for the audience, that easily could have been a spattering of soldiers or sailors taking a break from a historical war.

While spectators consumed the musical entertainment, I couldn't help but appreciate the efforts that went into the show. My voice is so bad, I'm not even allowed to sing in the shower. These folks obviously have put in the time and effort to hone their skills, not to mention the many evenings and weekends it took to learn the parts for these roles.

But as I was moving around in the background, trying to snap some photos, it was another hard-working group of volunteers that caught my eyes. These folks weren't in the spotlight on stage, but they played similarly important roles, working behind the scenes to make the production go.

Many of these same faces that took to the stage Friday and Saturday evening were back at it on Sunday afternoon as the Community Choir packed the house at the United Methodist Church for the annual Christmas Cantata. The production of "Mary, Did you know?" put the biblical tale of the birth of Jesus to music. Lori Fulk directed the 60 minutes of pure musical enjoyment for the full house as Ann Luther worked her magic on the piano and pastor Dan Hite performed the narration.

From the United Methodist Bell Choir, to the harmonious closing performance of Silent Night one could not help but be inspired by the music and be proud to call little Memphis home.

The holiday season is just a spattering of the musical tradition that this community holds. The theatre has hosted "Elvis" not to mention many a country music show. The Little Memphis Blues Society has brought several acclaimed artists to town and our school's musical program continues to offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy local artists as they get their start. If only I had grown up here - maybe I wouldn't require a soundproof shower stall.

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