MSO helps orchestrate celebration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

Free concert will feature mixture of music styles

To help Vicksburg celebrate its 178th birthday, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will perform free at 7:30 Friday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“We hope to make this a yearly event and have a birthday celebration for the community each year,” said Frances Koury, a special events volunteer for the city who was instrumental in bringing the symphony to Vicksburg for a 175th birthday celebration and again last year. “We are delighted to be able to host the orchestra and partner with them.”

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Richard Hudson, director of operations and personnel for MSO, said the event, titled Symphony Potpourri from Mozart to Mississippi Music, will feature a mix of classical music and popular music. The Vicksburg Community Children’s Choir will join the MSO in the second half of the evening.

“We are always pleased when the Mississippi Symphony is in Vicksburg,” said VCC executive director Larry Gawronski. “These musicians are the best of the best in the state.”

The orchestra began in 1944 as the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, and in 1989 became the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Crafton Beck directs and conducts the orchestra.

“This is a gift from the city, and I think everyone should take advantage of it,” he said.

Gawronski said the symphony drew about 1,000 people when it performed here last year.

On Friday morning at 9:30 and 10:45, the orchestra will perform for first- through fourth-graders at the center.

Wednesday was the city’s birthday.

Convention Center looks for ways to boost revenue

By Victor Sumerall

A study to determine the impact a hotel would have on the Vicksburg Convention Center has been placed on hold by the Board of Mayor and Alderman.

“We’ve directed Compass Facility Management to take the lead in the study,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said. “We don’t believe it should be done by government.”

Efforts to bring a Sheryl Crow concert to the convention center were not placed on hold.

“That would be a blockbuster event,” Larry Gawronski, Vicksburg Convention Center and Auditorium executive director, said of the possible concert.

Gawronski said at the quarterly advisory board meeting Wednesday the study has been postponed, citing two reasons; pending more information on a new casino-hotel venture announced for the southern end of the city and other downtown developments.

Jim Belisle, a developer, and Lake Entertainment, a Minnesota-based casino management firm, unveiled plans for a hotel-casino-golf course earlier this month. The development is to be on about 600 acres off U.S. 61 South and is expected to cost about $150 million to $180 million, Belisle said.

Vicksburg is now spending at least $6 million from a $17 million bond issue in the downtown area, and while several new businesses have arrived or remodeled, others have closed or are reported to be considering changing ownership.

“The first thing we need to do is decide what the market potential is and go from there,” Leyens said. “We will do a market study potential in February.”

Gawronski said landing the Crow concert could help the convention center that is operating under a $105,900 deficit.

“We can’t do it alone, we need some underwriting, we need some partners,” Gawronski said of the possibility of booking the Crow show.

The convention center incurred losses on three in-house promotions. A Jars of Clay concert had to be canceled due to poor ticket sales. The Average White Band that played at the center in October lost money, and the Chicago Style Standup Comedy show in November, which Gawronski called an “audience hit, but a box office failure,” also lost money.

“It was well received by the people who were there, unfortunately we only had about 110 to 115 people there,” Gawronski said.

Gawronski said the convention center has an offer of $60,000 to attract Crow to the city.

Crow hit the rock scene in 1999 with hits such as “All I Wanna Do” and “Strong Enough.” Crow’s latest hit is a duet with Kid Rock called “Picture.”

The downtown convention center opened in 1998 and was managed by city officials before being turned over to Compass which also manages Vicksburg Auditorium. The advisory board meets quarterly.