House packed for city’s birthday concert

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 16, 2000

Mississippi orchestra conductor Crafton Beck, above, directs Friday night’s performance at the Vicksburg Convention Center in honor of Vicksburg’s 175th birthday. At right, some of the more than 650 people listen to the program. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

At the ripe old age of 175, the Hill City proved Friday night that its not too over the hill to throw a great party.

The 500 chairs packed into the Vicksburg Convention Center for the city’s 175th Anniversary celebration quickly proved far too few, as residents wearing everything from black ties to T-shirts to diapers continued to stream in.

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Frances Koury, coordinator of the celebration, said she was initially worried about competing with Friday night football games, a Gladys Knight concert and other weekend events.

“When we first got here, I told them to start taking out chairs because I thought it would be intimidating to have so many chairs and so few people,” Koury said. “But we put them back, and now we’re having to put in more chairs. I’m very excited.”

In all, about 700 people crowded in to hear the free performance of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Grammy-nominated Maestro Crafton Beck.

The orchestra performed a few classical selections, including the light-hearted Champagne Polka by Johann Strauss, but the majority of the program was dedicated to popular tunes such as the theme from “Titanic,” a medley of Beatles songs and music from “Phantom of the Opera.”

“This is a real good experience for my kids,” said Edmond Monroe, who was attending an orchestral performance for the first time along with his daughter, T’nisha, 7, and son, Oshay, 6.

“It’s something new, so they can say when they get older that they’ve been to a symphony,” Monroe said.

A choir from Sherman Avenue Elementary kicked off the celebration by singing “Happy Birthday” to the city, followed by “We Are the World,” the famous 1980s rock benefit anthem.

One of the singers, 10-year-old Ashley Burgess, said she really liked the song, even though she wasn’t born when it was made famous by superstars like Michael Jackson and Kenny Rogers.

“I was nervous,” Burgess said of her performance.

Her mother, Lee Burgess, said she enjoyed both the singing and the orchestra. Like many, she was seeing an orchestral performance for the first time.

“I’ve seen it on TV, but this is my first time being in front of a live orchestra,” she said. “I would definitely come back.”

The city’s birthday cake was a six-layer Italian creme cheese cake, and although Koury asked everyone to make a wish for the city’s future, the candles were electric and had to be unplugged, rather than blown out.

The city’s official birthday the date the city’s charter was signed in 1825 was Jan. 29, but a performance scheduled that day was cancelled because of snow and ice.

The concert was rescheduled for the fall because it was the earliest date the convention center and the symphony were both available. The symphony does not perform during the summer.