Music from the soul: Performance inspired by songs birthed in region

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 4, 2018


NATCHEZ — Stanton Hall got “All Shook Up” Wednesday evening as Lynn Beach Smith and Alvin Shelby performed a musical concert featuring music from the region covering genres from spirituals and gospel to rock and contemporary country music.

People from as far away as Germany, Norway, California and West Virginia enjoyed the show alongside people from the Miss-Lou.

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Shelby said the music performed represents the music that was birthed in the region and pays homage to the people as well.

“I think even though (the days of slavery) were harsh times for my ancestors, they did bring a lot of culture and rhythm and music when they came,” Shelby said. “Although it was not by their choice, but I think that’s what helped them to survive, they had to sing through the hardships they had.”

Smith said as a trained singer she believes Stanton Hall is the perfect venue because of the close proximity between performer and the audience.

“It makes for a life-changing experience for some of our travelers who are connecting on a spiritual level with performers that are literally right in front of them,” Shelby said.

Smith said the music performed was all birthed in Mississippi and performed by Mississippians.

“It’s a combination of a lot of hard work, a lot of our ancestors, who have gone before us, and who have paved the way with this music that we do,” Smith said. “Elvis and Faith Hill and Charlie Pride and Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong.”

Over the past three years Shelby and Smith have performed the concert together countless times and both said they have become close friends.

“We’re not only professional musicians; we are good friends and have mutual respect for one another,” Shelby said.

The concert starts with “Old Man River” and other music from “Showboat,” the movie that had scenes filmed in Natchez and at Stanton Hall.

“Then we go into why do we have these syncopated rhythms? Why do we have this wonderful music that was birthed in Mississippi,” Smith said. “We have it because of the African-American heritage here. That’s how we came to this wonderful conglomerated music genre that we have today because of the African-American heritage that was brought here from their countries.

“They might have come in chains but they liberated themselves in their music and that is powerful and that speaks even today in America what we are facing as a nation.”

Smith said the music contains a story that needs to be told, and they’re telling it inside a National Historical landmark, Stanton Hall, that was built on the backs of enslaved people.

“It was music that was felt in their soul and that’s what they had to offer,” Shelby said. “I’m glad that this concert touches on that ,and it makes me very happy to be a part of it.”