A Christmas show Florence can call its own New ‘Christmas in Carolina’ features local talent, supports new Florence Music Alliance
FLORENCE, S.C. – Christmas gets an early start in Florence when some of the area’s most popular musicians gather to celebrate the season and raise money for a good cause.
It’ll happen at the the Florence Regional Arts Alliance inaugural holiday music production, “Christmas in Carolina: a Hometown Music Show,” set for Dec. 8 at Florence Little Theatre.
A pre-show reception featuring jazz from The Bobby Roberts Quartet will begin at 6:30 p.m., with the main show following at 7:30 p.m.Admission to the pre-show reception is included with the price of the ticket. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and desserts will be served, and a cash bar will also be available serving wine, beer and gourmet coffees.
Local musician Mark Humphries said he’s been thinking about doing a local Christmas show for years. He just never got around to it until this year. “I first thought about it years ago while I was watching a Christmas show at the Alabama Theatre,” Humphries said. “I just thought, ‘Why don’t we have something like this in Florence?’ With all the great musicians we have around here, it didn’t make any sense.”“I worked on the Allen Johnson benefit a few years ago with Melanie and John, and that went really well,” Humphries said. “So I pitched this idea and Melanie has a Christmas album, so it just worked. It made sense.”
“Christmas in Carolina” is the story – yes, it’s a concert with a story – of an aspiring young Florence musician (Josh McDowell) who goes to New York to pursue his dreams, leaving behind his girlfriend (Kayley Green). The script was conceived by Francis Marion University theatre professor, Keith Best, and Florence singer-songwriter McMillan. It was inspired by McMillan’s song “Christmas in Carolina,” which was featured on her 2010 album “Joyous Noel.”The show will be hosted by Lloyd Wilcox and Jai Jai Spann.
In addition to its dramatic elements, the show will feature live musical performances by an all-star cast of Pee Dee musicians including: McMillan, Speakeasy, Allen Johnson, Kevin Smith, The Borrowed Time Band, Ed Clements, Sam Grant, the Chris Brown Combo, Harry McFadden, Rusty Henderson, Suzanne Henderson, Johnny Tanner, John Bazen, Stephanie Fagan, James Scott Bullard & The Late Night Sweethearts, Taylor Nealey, Rebecca Morning Phipps, and Olivia Charnes. Kelley’s Fine Arts Dancers will perform, and Santa Claus (didn’t know he was from the Pee Dee, did you?) is even expected to make an appearance.
“There is a dramatic element used to frame the musical numbers, but it's definitely more of a music show than a play,” said Missy Davis Jones, owner of regional record label Yonder Music. She helped organize the event and put together the roster of musicians.“It's very much a show about live music,” said Jones. ‘There’s lots of variety from rock to country to jazz. The short skits are charming and just sort of provide the glue for the whole production.”
The event serves as a kickoff and a fundraiser for the newly formed Florence Music Alliance, a new music-focused organization under the umbrella of the Florence Regional Arts Alliance. The Florence Music Alliance will seek to promote opportunities for musical creativity in the region. Proceeds also benefit the Florence Little Theatre.
“The Florence Music Alliance is a brand new organization, and this event is creating the seed money to get it started,” Jones said. “It's going to be a branch of the Florence Regional Arts Alliance, but there’s still a lot of conversation happening regarding what sort of projects it will fund and pursue. But what's important for everyone to know, is that it will be focused on popular styles of music, not so much classic, which makes it a unique organization in our community. The goal is to organize and fund opportunities to showcase local musicians.”Some of the ideas being discussed include additional showcases like the Christmas event, assistance in helping musicians seek out business opportunities and help in providing low-cost services such as practice space or promotion for area musicians.
“We're still figuring it all out, which is the exciting part,” Jones said. “Having an exclusive organization to support regional music and knowing that, the possibilities are endless. There's so much opportunity both to support the area's musicians, and create music enrichment programs for our community. We’re very excited about it.”
-Tracey Bridges, The Morning News