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The Delta Music Institute at Delta State University, in partnership with the Delta State Music Department and the Bologna Performing Arts Center, will present the second annual "A Mississippi Delta Holiday," featuring the exceptional talents of Mississippi performers in a celebration of holiday music on Sunday, December 9, at 3 p.m. in the Delta & Pine Land Theatre of the BPAC.
The featured performers for the festive holiday show will be five-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year Mac McAnally and award-winning blues piano master Eden Brent of Greenville. Also appearing on the show will be DMI Director singer/songwriter Tricia Walker, the DSU Chorale, DSU Community Drumming & Dance Experience, DSU Steel Drum Band and the DSU Jazz Band.
Music was the most obvious road for Lyman "Mac" McAnally to take from his Red Bay, Alabama birthplace and Belmont, Mississippi hometown. He was a guitar and piano prodigy who performed in clubs at 13, wrote his first song at 15 and landed as a Muscle Shoals studio musician at 18. McAnally signed his first record deal at 20 and launched two singles to moderate success on the Billboard Hot 100. His songwriting drew the attention of Jimmy Buffett and Hank Williams, Jr., both of whom cut McAnally songs. Alabama took his "Old Flame" to No. 1 in 1981. The song cemented his status as a hit maker, a reputation that has never waned. Reba McEntire, Shenandoah, Ricky Van Shelton, Charley Pride, Randy Travis and Steve Wariner are just some of the artists who cut McAnally’s songs over the next 20 years.
In the late '80s and '90s, McAnally became an in-demand producer, along the way working with Ricky Skaggs, Restless Heart, and Little Feat, among others. He produced the band Sawyer Brown through their biggest successes and penned their signature hits including "The Cafe On The Corner," "The Boys And Me" and "Thank God For You." Meanwhile, McAnally’s skills as a musician continued to bring calls that carried him into the studio. Over the course of his career he's built an enviable registry of credits that includes Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Jr., Amy Grant, Jimmy Buffett, Travis Tritt, Linda Ronstadt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dolly Parton and many more. And his guitar and vocal skills weren't confined to the studio, as he joined Buffett's touring Coral Reefer band, an association that continues to this day.
McAnnally has recorded 11 albums of his own music, all for major labels. His accomplishments are now beginning to be fully recognized. In 2007, McAnally was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The following year, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame followed suit, while the Country Music Association named him Musician of the Year for the last 5 years in a row. McAnally continues to own and operate his own recording studio in Muscle Shoals.
Eden Brent's piano playing and singing style ranges from a melancholic whisper to a full-blown juke joint holler. She's simultaneously confident and confiding, ably blending an earthy meld of jazz, blues, soul, and pop as she huskily invites listeners into her lazy, lush world.
It was just north of Greenville, Mississippi on the two-lane Highway 1 that Brent developed her gutsy vocal-and piano chops via family sing-a-longs and a 16-year apprenticeship with the late blues pioneer Boogaloo Ames, who ultimately dubbed his protégé "Little Boogaloo."
"Music school taught me to think, but Boogaloo taught me to boogie-woogie," says Brent, who appeared alongside her mentor in the 1999 PBS documentary Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound and in the 2002 South African production Forty Days in the Delta.
Critics laud her "Bessie Smith meets Diana Krall meets Janis Joplin" attitude, compare her to jazz/pop dynamos Norah Jones and Sarah Vaughn, and wax effusively about her "whiskey-smoke" voice, which serves as a constant reminder that Greenville, nestled into a bend of the Mississippi River, is located a few hundred miles north of New Orleans.
After a successful 26-year music career in Nashville, Southern singer/songwriter Tricia Walker returned to her alma mater in 2006 to take the helm of the Delta Music Institute, a music industry studies program at Delta State University. Her songs have been recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, and Allison Krauss, whose recording of Tricia's song, "Looking In The Eyes Of Love," earned a GRAMMY award. She was the originator of the Bluebird Cafe's legendary songwriter group, Women in the Round, and she has performed on stages across the United States and abroad.
The Delta State University Music Department, under the leadership of interim chair Dr. Mark Butler, will contribute the talents of multiple ensembles for this holiday offering. The DSU Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Nicholaus Cummins; DSU Jazz Band, under the direction of Dr. Bret Pimentel; DSU Steel Drum Band, under the direction of Josh Armstrong; and DSU Community Drumming & Dance Experience, under the direction of Dr. Karen Fosheim.
In addition to the great line-up of talent, A Mississippi Delta Holiday will offer free refreshments and a photo opportunity with Santa Claus in the Capwell lobby of the BPAC before the show. Several smaller music department ensembles will be performing in the lobby welcoming concertgoers to this festive event.
“This holiday show was envisioned as a seasonal gift from the Delta State community to the region,” says music industry studies instructor Charly Abraham, who is serving as producer and arranger of the event.
The Delta Music Institute is an independent center of excellence offering a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies degree under the College of Arts & Sciences at DSU. The mission is of the DMI to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative, and business areas of the music and entertainment industries.
Built in 1994, the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University has earned recognition as one of the premier houses for entertainment and arts in Mississippi and the Southeast. This outstanding venue offers a rich tapestry of cultural and educational programs to serve the entire Mississippi Delta.
Tickets for A Mississippi Delta Holiday may be purchased by calling the BPAC box office at 662-846-4626 or by ordering online at www.bolognapac.com.
Come and join the Delta State University family at the BPAC for A Mississippi Delta Holiday on Sunday, December 9, at 3 pm.