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'Champagne Affair' offers musical memories

Albany Chorale members Susan Crawford, Sandra Yerby and Debbie Syfrett sing together during Monday night’s practice session at Darton College in preparation for Thursday night’s fundraiser performance of “A Champagne Affair” at Chehaw Park.

Albany Chorale members Susan Crawford, Sandra Yerby and Debbie Syfrett sing together during Monday night’s practice session at Darton College in preparation for Thursday night’s fundraiser performance of “A Champagne Affair” at Chehaw Park.

ALBANY, Ga. -- And ah one, and ah two ... Get ready for a wunnerful, wunnerful evening Thursday as the Albany Chorale's 16th annual fundraiser, "A Champagne Affair," takes participants to a time and place where well-dressed musicians performed wholesome and romantic tunes.

Based on a concept by Program Director Marci McCarty and her husband Eddie, the champagne concept springs from episodes of "The Lawrence Welk Show," which aired on network and syndicated television until 1982.

"We have a lot of older patrons who support the chorale," McCarty said. "We thought they would really like that format."

McCarty said chorale members would be attired in tuxedos and chiffon dresses, "kind of a '60s formal look." A bubble machine will be on hand to produce the trademark champagne theme of the popular TV show, and the audience will be invited to dance. The chorale will even provide its own Welk-style master of ceremonies, complete with Bavarian accent.

McCarty said the night will be presented in three separate sets, beginning with "popular" music. Included will be classic favorites such as the full ensemble's "A Grand Night for Singing," led by director Marcia Hood; "The Rose of Tralee," featuring Irish tenor John Everett; "Blue Moon," "Stormy Weather," "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and, of course, "The Night They Invented Champagne," from the 1958 movie "Gigi."

Soloists performing in the first set also include Sheila Phillips Banks, Beth Haley and Tina Natoli Gettelfinger.

The second musical set features Western-style numbers such as "Buttons & Bows" by the full ensemble; "Streets of Laredo," featuring the chorale's male quartet; "Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle," from a 1937 Gene Autry movie, and the well-known classic "Home on the Range," a singalong with audience participation encouraged.

The final set includes patriotic and Americana tunes, including "Play for Me a Simple Melody" by the full ensemble; and "Blowin' in the Wind," a Bob Dylan tune from the early 1960s performed by Steve Strowbridge, Sarah Donnan and Debbie Syfrett.

That segment's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" will be performed by Steve Strowbridge on banjo, accompanied by the Myer's Mill Band, which also performs on many of the evening's other numbers. Instrumentation for the band includes guitar, upright bass, tenor saxophone and drums. Meri Beth Hillard is a featured keyboardist.

The Albany Chorale's version of the Andrews Sisters will perform "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" before ending the night with the full ensemble's "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag."

Hors d'oeuvres will be provided, as well as a cash bar stocked with every kind of refreshment including, of course, champagne.

A Champagne Affair will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Chehaw Creekside Center. Tickets are $35 per person and are available from chorale members Sarah Donnan at (229) 432-6019, Steve McCoy at (229) 395-3087 or Sheila Phillips at (229) 435-1667.

According to McCarty, the Albany Chorale is supported strictly by contributions, membership fees and concert admissions.

"We don't exist unless we have that support," McCarty said.

The next Albany Chorale concert, Missa Brevis and More, is planned for April 21, McCarty said. Information is available from any chorale member.