Come hear wonderful mix of music

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“I like to run my fingers over the keys, the ivories…”

The partial lyrics above to “I love a piano” by Irving Berlin could easily apply to my attitude going into my upcoming piano concert at 7 p.m. Friday, which will be hosted, once again, at New Covenant Church on Homochitto Street.

In the past, I have leaned heavily upon the works of Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and other great piano masters. I also ventured into the world of classical music and performed some DeBussey and Chopin.

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This concert is going to be a “hodge podge” of music. Some will be old standards, some will be more modern standards, and there will be a number or two from Broadway. And I would be remiss if I did not warn you that there will be a chance to sing along with a wonderful patriotic tune, as the Fourth of July is just right around the corner, and just begs not to be left out.

And now, I can commence that I will have an old friend performing with me on some pieces. A friend that was once very active at Natchez Little Theatre and sang in all the musicals we did back then. She also directed “Oklahoma!” when we did it in 1997. She is incredibly talented, has a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance Millsaps, and is actively involved in the Houston Show Chorus.

So, who is it?

Misty Skelton Hammett.

I am sure many of you remember her, as she was such a familiar face in this area, and I am just tickled that she has agreed to sing a little, or a lot, for us. “Our love is here to stay,” “I could write a book” and several others are planned. And I’m sure — with a little cajoling — she would do her beautiful rendering of “Summertime.”

The admission is free to the public, but I am taking this opportunity to solicit “love offerings” to help with the restoration process of the Baker Grand theater organ. Please don’t feel obligated to make a gift, but if you can, please do. I just want to enjoy the sounds that you hear and the fellowship that is always present.

I do get a lot of questions concerning the status of the organ.

I am hoping to open the shop up to visitors this fall, so interested folks can see how the organ is coming along.

It has not been an easy task. There is just no way to do anything short of a complete restoration of everything. That means replacing what seems like miles of wiring, yards and yards of valve and pouch leathers, yard of felts, repairing or replacing broken parts, polishing metal parts and pull wires, repairing and refinishing the console, and on and on. The worst part was all the missing pipework; a lot of the smaller pipes had been removed, stolen or damaged years ago, leaving the vox humana, diapason and violin ranks incomplete at best.

Through lots of internet contacts, phone calls and bickering, I am proud to say that replacement pipework has been secured. I insisted that the pipes be of the same manufacturer, which in this case is Robert-Morton. Not only were they exact fits, but the pipes bore the same stamped name of the pipemaker who built the original set — “ROSS.” Now, how neat is that.

The biggest obstacle I am facing is that of the blower motor.

I intend to have at the concert numerous examples of restored components and some of the replaced pipework. I think you will be amazed at the progress. I will also show the refinished lid of the console, which now bears its original nameplate, which had been removed many years ago. I was so fortunate to have gotten the name plate returned.

It has been a long, tiring job, but the wait and the results will be worth it. I have about another year and a half to two years to go.

If all goes well, the organ should be up and running in time for the city’s big birthday celebration. Now, couldn’t we have a blast with that?

So, circle your calendar. Make your plans. Come on down to hear some, hopefully, good piano playing, wonderful singing and survey the work that has been done, thanks to the generosity of man of you.


Burnley Cook is a Natchez resident and local musician.