Natchez Opera Festival presents ‘Songs of the South’ next week

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Old favorites and folk songs will fill the bill April 7, 9, 11 and 12, when the Natchez Opera Festival presents &uot;Songs of the South&uot; at 8 p.m. at New Covenant Presbyterian Church, 206 Main St., in conjunction with Spring Pilgrimage.

Tickets are $12 and are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, corner of State and Canal streets, or at the door on the night of the performance.

&uot;There was a need for another evening entertainment during the last week of Pilgrimage, and we were glad to help out,&uot; said Dr. David Blackburn, director of the opera festival.

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Music will include traditional spirituals, songs by composers and lyricists such as Stephen Foster and brothers George and Ira Gershwin and other music reminiscent of the South and early America. Performers will be from the Alcorn State University Concert Choir, a group Blackburn directs as professor of voice and choral music at the university.

They will include Lynn Blailock, who will sing an aria from &uot;The Marriage of Figaro&uot;; Kimberly Morgan, who will sing songs from &uot;Porgy and Bess&uot; and the duet from that opera with Shelton Smith.

Three performers will be brothers Marvin Kehler and Brian Kehler, native Californians who came to Alcorn in order to work with Blackburn’s program, and Jessica Manzo of Oklahoma City, Okla., also at Alcorn to study with Blackburn.

The &uot;Songs of the South&uot; program will be about an hour, Blackburn said. &uot;It will be a lovely program,&uot; he said. &uot;We will showcase some of our best young singers from Alcorn.&uot;

The program will begin with opera, he said. &uot;Opera is a part of our history; it’s appropriate to have it as part of this program.&uot;

Marvin Kehler said his part on the program will include Stephen Foster songs such as &uot;Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair&uot; and &uot;Beautiful Dreamer.&uot; Brian Kehler will sing songs with an Americana theme as well as Irish and English folk songs.

Among songs by Manzo will be her favorite, &uot;Shenandoah.&uot;

The three students involved in the &uot;Songs of the South&uot; concert also are working throughout the month of May as volunteers with the opera festival.

&uot;They have worked on sets, in the office. They are getting wonderful experience,&uot; Blackburn said.