Premiere A Capella Group Performs in Birmingham

Premiere A Capella Group Performs in Birmingham

The 11-member a capella group Voctave has received more than 100 million views on their Facebook and YouTube videos and you can hear this incredibly talented group live on April 26 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Homewood. The voices of the Central Florida group represent a wealth of diverse backgrounds and musical experiences and will perform Broadway show tunes, Disney songs and much more. From gospel music to musical theater, contemporary Christian to barbershop, pop music to choral specialists, Voctave voices have covered it all both in and out of the a cappella realm. The group has performed with Grammy, Dove and American Music Award recipients including Sandi Patty, Kirstin Maldonado, Mark Lowry, David Phelps and Jody McBrayer. With multiple #1 songs and albums on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, Voctave has also ranked in the top 25 on Billboard Magazine’s charts. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception, 6:30 p.m. seated dinner and 8 p.m. Voctave concert. Tickets range from $100 – $135 per person ($50 – $70 is tax deductible) and proceeds fund life-changing scholarships to Samford for students with significant financial needs and challenging circumstances. Learn more at www.samford.edu/legacyleague, 205-726-2807. †

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Magnolia Festival Praises

Music Notes

Named a Top Twenty Event by the Southeast Tourism Society, the Gardendale Magnolia Festival, April 20-21 will include some great family friendly entertainment and talent proclaiming God’s praises.

Acoustic Gospel. Bentwood Revival will perform Friday Night at 7pm. These four artists, Faith Harper, Larry Bradford, Selwyn Spalding, and Charlotte Guffin, are all from Gardendale and have been singing together for 25 years. The band’s name is a nod to the craftsmanship of the wood instruments used in their acoustic gospel group.

Southern Gospel. Steel City Revival will sing God’s praises Friday night April 20 at 8pm.  The Alabama based, all male southern gospel quartet members include BT Thomas, Greg Carter, Dustin Bearden and Keith Wix, www.steelcityrevivalqt.com.

Bluegrass. The bluegrass sibling band, Cotton Pickin Kids, will perform at 12:30pm on Saturday April 21. The Cipollari kids are from Hanceville and range in age from 7 to 15. Listen to Savio on mandolin, Therese on fiddle, Cecilia on guitar, Rosalinda on fiddle, Gianluca on banjo and harmonica and Giovanni on dobro. The Cipollari family will not disappoint!

The Magnolia Festival kicks off on Friday April 20, from 5-10 p.m. with an entertainment stage, food and a carnival. On Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. enjoy live entertainment on three stages, a pooch parade, car show, free art classes, 150 vendors and more. Admission is free. Learn more at www.magnoliafestival.org.

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“West Side Story” Presented by Briarwood Christian School

“West Side Story” Presented by Briarwood Christian School

Education Extra

Claudia Butler and April Kirby choreographed “The dance at the gym.”

Students from Briarwood Christian School recently took to the stage to perform the classic musical, “West Side Story,” under the direction of Mrs. Lee Eady.  “It’s a rather large and difficult production but the kids like to be challenged,” says Eady. “I also like that there is a great lesson the kids and audience can learn. The underlying theme is about prejudice, and it really gets you to ask yourself some thought provoking questions. Of course, it’s also a fabulous love story!” 46 students were involved in the production on stage, with 20 more working behind the scenes.  A live, full orchestra provided the score.  Senior, Cole Jackson and Sophomore, Halle Beasley played the main roles Tony and Maria during three nights of performances. †

 

Westside Story’s Tony and Maria played by Cole Jackson and Halle Beasley at Briarwood Christian School.

West Side Story’s “The Sharks and the Jets.” Bernardo is played by Briarwoods’ Thomas Dillard and Riff by Cole Garner.

 

 

 

 

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Symbols of Faith in The Lion King

Symbols of Faith in The Lion King

Featured Image Photo Credit: Deen van Meer

For Broadway actress Martina Sykes, The Lion King is a direct representation of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Simba loses himself in a moment of despair, then remembers his identity as child of the One True King on a journey back to the Pride Lands, with Rafiki as his spiritual guide. Performing as the head hyena, Shenzi, in the Birmingham production of The Lion King at the BJCC March 14 – April 1, Sykes and fellow actress Nia Holloway (performing as Nala) say glimpses of the Christian faith are evident both on stage and in their personal faith journeys through the challenges of youth.

Martina Sykes begins The Lion King inside the big elephant, then transforms into Shenzi with kneepads, gloves, a harness, and a fat suit lovingly nicknamed “The Futon.” The daughter of a prominent Florida pastor, she says she can easily relate to a story about losing yourself in pain. As a teenager, everything she knew about God had come from her parents, so when they faced a very public divorce, she was shattered by the pain she saw them experience. “It’s a different feeling as a child to watch your parents hurt in a way that makes them human. When you’re younger you feel like your parents are like superheroes. You don’t know that they get just as low and broken as you do,” she explains. “I felt really lost. I couldn’t understand how people who were so strong were so heartbroken. As much as I prayed, it didn’t glue them back together.” Peace came in the form of wisdom from her grandmother. “My grandma would always say, ‘just keep livin’.’ I’d say, ‘I don’t know what that means, grandma.’ She was like, ‘you keep livin’ so you live to see things get better. Nothing can ever be bad forever. Just like seasons change, you’ll live to come out on the other side of pain.’”

Her first glimpse at healing was when she graduated from the high school musical theater program at The Pinellas Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla., and realized there was still love, unity, and partnership as her parents celebrated her accomplishment. However, the separation had left her feeling disconnected from her talent. She spent four years at the University of Florida studying public relations until her brother Ephraim Sykes, who is currently starring in the New York Broadway production of Hamilton, convinced her God had given her a gift that shouldn’t go ignored.

Nia Holloway, a Norcross, Ga., native and granddaughter to disco singer Loleatta Holloway, is the youngest adult to play adult Nala in the 20-year history of The Lion King musical. Often roommates with Sykes while traveling with the musical, Holloway joined the cast in 2013 at 17 years old, finishing her senior year of high school with a tutor on the road. “Nala is such a complex character. She is a young, fierce lioness, and she is powerful and just represents strength. Also, she’s very vulnerable and has this kind of giddy, puppy love/cub love with Simba, so she’s just a very dynamic character,” explains Holloway. “The challenging part about Nala is being able to embody that every single night, but it’s also rewarding because in the end you are a part of something that’s truly amazing and truly bigger than just yourself.”

Like Sykes, faith for Holloway remains a central part of her craft. She says The Lord’s Prayer before stepping onto stage, then follows it with a private prayer that God would order her steps and precede her on stage so her performance is about Him and not herself. Her biggest inspiration, she says, is her parents, who had her while students in high school. “That story alone, shows you that God is real,” she says. “My parents just walked in faith.”

Nia Holloway performs as Nala in the North American Tour of the musical The Lion King, coming to the BJCC March 14 – April 1. “It’s almost like an out of body experience to be able to be on stage and be vulnerable and give really your spirit and your soul to a room full of strangers, and for them to receive you with love and with passion… for me that’s when I get to experience God at the highest level.” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

In Act Two of the stage show, Nala decides to leave her pride, ruined by her uncle’s reign, in search of a better home. It’s Holloway’s favorite scene, and her powerful performance on the ballad “Shadowland” is haunting. Her home is ruined, but she vows to return. Rafiki blesses her, and she sings, “And where the journey may lead you / Let this prayer be your guide / Though it may take you so far away / Always remember your pride.” Sometimes pain means leaving home, then coming back again renewed. “It starts in a vulnerable and place of despair for Nala, and by the end she is standing, ready to go find help wherever that may be,” Holloway says. “For me, I pull on that when I have a moment when I feel weakened and I have to close my eyes and call on God. Nala needs God to get her through her journey.”

Both women admit that when they first saw the original animated version of The Lion King as children, watching Mufasa’s death was crushing. Sykes waited a decade to even view the film again. But ultimately Mufasa never truly leaves. He’s in the clouds, in Simba’s conscience, in his heart. “I think in real life we sometimes feel like death is the ultimate separation, not realizing that so much of our loved ones are all around us all the time,” Sykes explains. “To see the journey of Simba losing himself and finding himself, and Rafiki being this channel between him and Mufasa, I believe that what we go through as people–whether we have lost our grandmother or our parents or even our sibling–is to realize that we never actually lose that connection, even if they’re not here with us physically.” Sykes sees Simba’s realization that he can go home–and that he is still connected to his loved ones who have died–as a beautiful picture of restoration and grace.

Birmingham Christian Family is giving away two tickets to the opening night of the Lion King at the BJCC, March 14, 2018. For a chance to win, LIKE www.Facebook.com/BirminghamChristianFamily and Like & Share the Lion King Post. Winner announced on Facebook March, 11, 2018. For more information about The Lion King in Birmingham visit www.theaterleague.com/birmingham or www.lionking.com.

-Camille Smith Platt 

Friends and Lion King co-stars Nia Holloway and Martina Sykes plan to visit historic Birmingham sites including 16th Street Baptist Church while performing in the Magic City March 2018.

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A Piece of Jugtown History at Magnolia Festival

A Piece of Jugtown History at Magnolia Festival

Cool Stuff

The Gardendale Magnolia Festival has commissioned local artisan Jay Burton to make a limited number of Jugtown factory replica jugs (1873-1876) which will only be available for purchase at the Festival on April 21.

Jugtown, Ala. changed its name to Gardendale, Ala. in 1906. Why? Find out when you attend the 17th Annual Magnolia Festival at the Gardendale Civic Center on April 21. Plus, you will have an opportunity to see an original jug claimed to be made in the Jugtown factory from 1873-1876. The jug was recently donated to the Gardendale Historical Society museum by local resident Marie Fields.

The Gardendale Magnolia Festival has commissioned local artisan potter, Jay Burton, to make 100 replicas of the jug to be sold only at the Festival, Saturday April 21. Burton, of Burton Pottery by Jay, will be on site at the exhibit to demonstrate how to make pottery. He makes his tools by hand and only uses Mt. Olive/Gardendale clay to create his pottery. Members of the Gardendale Historical Society will share with visitors the story of how Jugtown changed its name to Gardendale as well as the story of why they believe the donated jug is an original jug made in the Jugtown factory. The jug can be seen now and during the festival at the Museum which is near the civic center amphitheater on Bell Street off Main Street in Gardendale.

The Magnolia Festival will kick off on Friday April 20, from 5-10pm with an entertainment stage, food and a carnival. On Saturday enjoy the pottery exhibit along with live entertainment on three stages, including “blue grass with a twist” from the Judge Talford Band, a pooch parade, car show, free art classes, 150 vendors and more. Admission is free. Learn more at www.magnoliafestival.org. †

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnolia Festival kicks off on Friday April 20 and will feature the Jugtown Pottery exhibit on Saturday April 21 and so much more, wwwmagnoliafestivla.org.

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Samford University Center for Worship and the Arts

Samford University Center for Worship and the Arts

Education Extra

National Platform for Youth Ministry & Worship Ministry: Center for Worship and the Arts

Through programs, research, and scholarship, the Center for Worship and the Arts is creating a national platform for conversations about the relationship between youth ministry and worship ministry. Based at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., the Center is run by staff and students within the School of the Arts, and it is most known for Animate, a five-day summer program in worship leadership for teenagers and their adult mentors.

Animate will celebrate its fifth year this summer on the campus of Samford University June 25-29, 2018. Using biblical, Christ-centered principles, students hone worship leadership skills, adults sharpen their mentoring tools, and everybody works together to reflect on the intersection between worship, theology, and the arts. Participants have the opportunity to experience a wide range of worship styles and practices, gain practical skills in worship leadership through workshops, plan and lead a 15-minute worship service with their small group, and reflect on worship, theology, and the arts throughout the week.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming to Animate, but the worship has been really engaging and inspiring. I feel like I’m going to take what I’m learning with me back to my home church.” —Jade, 16 (Animate 2017 participant)

The Center for Worship and the Arts will also add a new program this year, Worship Leader Boot Camp, which is an intensive 24-hour training experience for student worship leaders and student worship teams. With a focus on practical skills in music and principles of worship leadership, Worship Leader Boot Camp prepares teenage youth worship leaders to plan, rehearse, and lead worship for their peers or their whole church during the Fall semester. Participants will be taught in large plenary sessions, have the opportunity to watch a band rehearse and lead worship, and work in groups to learn songs on their chosen instrument. Additionally, participants will receive a packet of materials to continue their learning after Boot Camp. This event will take place July 27-28 on the campus of Samford University.

“Churches of every shape, size, and denomination must do a better job of helping teenagers connect in worship, or they risk becoming just another part of the world’s noise. Teens connecting well to worship means better connecting to God; to the children, adults, and elders in the church; and to their own too-often divided selves,” explains Executive Director of the Center for Worship and the Arts, Dr. Eric L. Mathis. “These programs will equip teenagers and congregations to work together on the joy and privilege of worship in an intergenerational community.” To learn more visit www.samford.edu/go/cwa or email cwa@samford.edu. †

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New $1.1 Million Grant to Help Support Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts

New $1.1 Million Grant to Help Support Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts

Education Extra

Animate is one of the programs at Samford University’s Center for the Worship and the Arts. The five-day worship leadership program is for teenagers and their adult mentors. Animate 2018 is June 25-29 and registration is open, www.samford.edu/go/animate

Samford University has received an additional $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to further the work of the Center for Worship and the Arts. Housed in Samford’s School of the Arts, the center is advancing the conversation about teenage worshippers and teenage worship leaders.

The founding director of the Center for Worship and the Arts, Eric Mathis arrived at Samford in 2010. He holds a bachelor of music from Wheaton College, a master of music and master of divinity from Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. “We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for its support of our work and our mission as we equip congregations to build bridges between student ministry and worship ministry,” Mathis said.  “Through programs, research, and scholarship, we are creating a national platform for conversations about the relationship between youth ministry and worship ministry, and we believe this conversation is important for the church and the work of God in the world.” Founded as anima in 2013 with the help of a grant from the Christ Is Our Salvation (C.I.O.S.) Foundation, the program recently revised its name to the Center for Worship and the Arts. Animate, its flagship summer worship leadership program retains its current identity.

The center is celebrating its fifth anniversary and launching several new initiatives thanks to the additional grant, Mathis said. New program highlights are a Worship Leader Boot Camp for teenagers, allowing youth ministers and worship leaders to jump start their fall programming with teenage youth worship leaders; Student Worship Cohorts which will develop a deeper relationship with congregations participating in Animate; Student Worship Innovators which will engage church leaders in creating new resources for student worship; and new writing projects, including a book by Mathis under contract with Baker Academic Publishing. The center continues to provide online resources, an online certificate program with expanded goals and its summer program, Animate.

Other center team members include Tracy Hanrahan, Program Director; Kara Young, Coordinator of Promotion and Engagement; and three Faculty Fellows: Emily Andrews, Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership; Joe Cory, Associate Professor of Art; and Chuck Stokes, Associate Professor of Sociology. To learn more about the Center for the Worship and the Arts: cwa@samford.edu, 205-726-4525, @samfordcwa †

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The GIFT of Music

The GIFT of Music

Music Notes

“Mom, thanks for letting me quit piano lessons when I was a kid!”… said no one ever! Actually, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone bemoan the fact that they quit taking piano or voice or [insert your instrument of choice here] lessons as a child.

In elementary and junior high school, my love for music wasn’t nearly as strong as my love for sports. I dreamed of being the next Roger Staubach, but I was also in the school band and found a great love for music. I am grateful for parents and educators who encouraged me to try different activities and taught me not only to complete whatever commitment I had made to a sports team or any other group I was involved in, but to also do my very best in them. For me, music won the day and I clearly remember all the wonderful people who helped me along the way. The only regret I have is not taking private lessons earlier in life.

Today it seems as if parents are choosing specific paths for their children at a very young age, but let me encourage you to take a breath and allow your child the advantage of experiencing many different opportunities- including music making. It is a well-known fact that music education has tremendous benefits such as self-discipline, teamwork, organization, critical thinking and many more. However, as Northwestern University research revealed and Melissa Locker reported in her Time magazine article, “This is how Music Can Change Your Brain,” to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, kids can’t just sit there and let the sound of music wash over them. They have to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class.” I promise you will not regret the time and energy spent in pursuing music education. One way of doing this is through programs like Meadow Brook Baptist Church’s School of Fine Arts, otherwise known as S.O.F.A.

S.O.F.A. is designed to meet the student where they are and help them develop the skills and discipline it requires to reach their fullest potential. Whether for use in performance, ministry or personal enjoyment, S.O.F.A.’s mission is to see each person grow in their talent and passion for the arts. Whether you are a beginner or very experienced musician, take advantage of S.O.F.A. and reap the benefits music has to offer. Registration for spring classes is taking place now, visit www.mbbc-sofa.org.

-David Vaughan 

Worship Pastor, Meadow Brook Baptist Church, 

4984 Meadow Brook Rd, Birmingham, AL 35242

205-991-8384, www.meadowbrookbaptist.orgwww.mbbc-sofa.org

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Christmas in Four-Part Harmony at the Lyric

Christmas in Four-Part Harmony at the Lyric

Music Notes 

The award-winning men’s a cappella chorus, Voices of the South, will perform their 18th annual Christmas show, “Christmas at the Lyric, “December 9 at 7 p.m. As the name reflects, the performance will be at the beautifully restored downtown Birmingham Lyric Theatre and will include a wide variety of great Christmas music.

A part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, Voices of the South, is dedicated to preserving a style of music that is original to the United States. “Barbershop harmony today is not your grandfather’s barbershop,” Chapter President Ed Wharton says. “We do a wide variety of music ranging from the old classic ‘Shine on Me’ to the more recent Leonard Cohen tune ‘Hallelujah’, and all of it is sung in four-part harmony. At their most recent district contest in October, Voices of the South placed first in their plateau/division and received the distinction of “Most Improved Chorus.” In addition to performing at events and competitions throughout the year, Voices of the South supports Wings of Hope Pediatric Foundation, a local charity providing assistance to parents who have terminally ill children.

This year’s Christmas performance will include a special guest appearance by the Iron City Singers, founded on two principles: singing quality choral music at a high level of artistry, and performing as a close-knit community of singers who care about one another. This talented ensemble is composed of singers who have previously performed together at the high school, collegiate, church, and professional levels, and is made up completely of volunteers.

For more information about Voices of the South visit voicesofthesouth.com. To purchase tickets to “Christmas at the Lyric,” go to lyricbham.com/events. †

See Alabama’s own Voices of the South perform live with special guest, Iron City Singers, at the Lyric December 9.

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