Pause to remember: Miss-Lou patriotic concert is Sunday

Published 12:09 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

Photo illustration by Eric Shelton | The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — American life as we knew it changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, and while citizens are no longer reeling, the horror of that day is carved into the American consciousness.

But some people in the Miss-Lou want to highlight the beauty that emerges from terror with music.

A 9-11 patriotic tribute concert, called Miss-Lou Celebrates America — A Patriotic Concert, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. next Sunday at the Vidalia Amphitheater.

Concert co-chair Mary Lessley said the purpose for the concert is simple, but rich with significance.

“The purpose of this event is to pay tribute to those who lost their lives and family members on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 American tragedy,” Lessley said. “Every American should remember 9-11-2001, as the impact of this tragedy affected every American — not just Americans in New York —we must never forget the cost of freedom that all of our military troops face each and every day protecting America and all the freedoms that we take for granted.”

Lessley said that message will be conveyed in the most universal form — music.

The St. Joseph Orchestra and St. Joseph Jazzers and Singers, of St. Joseph Arts Inc., will perform patriotic songs at the concert.

Several orchestra members are Vidalia and Natchez musicians. The orchestra will play “Hymn to the Fallen,” and “What a Wonderful World,” concluding the program with “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“It will be full of energy,” said Cecil Evans, director of St. Joseph Arts Inc.

Evans added the instrumentalists are volunteering their time.

Volunteer musicians from Natchez include conductor Louis DeVries, Nancy Eidt on clarinet, Jim Barnett on string bass, Larry Buckley on trombone, Louis Gunning on bassoon, Allyn DeVries on flute, David Troutman on violin and Ron Brumfield on tuba. O’Neil Douglas on trombone will represent Vidalia.

“People should come to celebrate the lives that were lost in terrible tragedy and have an uplifting experience through patriotic music,” Evans said. “We need a sense of American pride once again, and we hope this will help people feel a little of that.”

A mass combination of local voices will also highlight the event.

Alex Craft, Parkway Baptist Church minister of music, will lead a mass choir comprised of singers from dozens of churches in the Miss-Lou. Craft said there are more than 100 voices.

“If anyone would like to be involved in this, they are welcome to come and join us,” Craft said.

Rehearsal will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Parkway Baptist Church. A follow-up rehearsal will be at 2:30 on Sunday, Sept. 11. Singers are asked to dress in white tops and black slacks or skirts for the performance.

Craft said a variety of familiar patriotic music will be offered, including “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

“This is a coming together for a united effort to show support for country, and to let people know that we do care about those who are serving and have served,” Craft said.

Craft added that Sept. 11 is a solemn time to remember those who lost their lives in the U.S. terrorist attacks a decade ago.

Lessley said she expects the mood to be mixed.

“I think there will be a lot of tears as well as excitement in our hearts as we all listen to the beautiful patriotic music performed by so many voices and musicians,” Lessley said.

The celebrity emcee is Mississippi native Sam Haskell, who is now former worldwide head of television for the William Morris Agency — the largest diversified talent agency in the world.

Haskell will welcome guests to the concert and present speakers — mayors from Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday.

His wife, Mary, will perform at the concert. Mary has built a successful stage and television career.

Lessley said the Ole Miss alumnus will bring enthusiasm and excitement to the concert.

“I feel so privileged that he and his wife, Mary Donnelly Haskell, are coming to our Miss-Lou area to give of their talents in support of our event,” Lessley said.

Lessley said she hopes the concert will remind the Miss-Lou, not just of lives lost 9-11, but also soldiers and veterans.

“They need to come to support not only our country and all of those active military troops that are protecting American soil,” Lessley said. “There is no better way to touch our hearts and souls and show our patriotism than through beautiful music —which is exactly what this concert is all about and will project to all who attend.”

Lessley said lots of individuals and organizations have gotten behind the event, offering either money or time.

“So many were so generous and supportive of this event —not only financially but by volunteering to help organize and do whatever was needing to be done to make this concert happen for the Miss-Lou residents, as well as persons from all over America.”

Lessley said the patriotic concert is definitely a family event, and she hopes everyone will turn out and perhaps start a dialogue around their dinner tables.

“(This is a chance) for families to be together as they enjoy the beautiful patriotic music and inspirational speeches, they will somehow realize the importance of the American family — sharing and doing things together.”

Lessley said because the concert is a family event, only water and soft drinks will be sold, with proceeds going to support the 2012 Natchez Festival of Music season. Therefore, no one is to bring ice chests of beverages.

Concert organizers have emphasized that the concert is inclusive of the whole Miss-Lou and beyond.

“The Miss Lou has a very special connection in that what happens in anyone of our cities — Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday — affects all citizens in the Miss Lou Area,” Lessley said. “Therefore, our coming together as one to remember those families that were affected on this day symbolizes what America is all about.”