St. Thomas Episcopal set to host ‘A Keyboard Extraganza’

Published 3:16 pm Friday, September 6, 2013

When longtime St. Thomas Episcopal Church member Midge Bennett helped replace her church’s piano, she likely never suspected that the benefits would extend far beyond her church family.

But the generous donation served as inspiration for “A Keyboard Extravaganza,” the latest in a series of fine arts concerts slated for Sunday, Sept. 29, at 4 p.m.

Admission to the concert is free, although a reservation is required for admission.

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“The piano we’ve been using has served us well, but it’s been showing its age,” said St. Thomas Episcopal Church choirmaster Charles Kennedy.

“Not only did we get a new instrument, but we upgraded to a better quality instrument.  So we are really happy about that, and we’re planning this concert for fun and to celebrate the new piano.”

Kennedy decided to focus on variety when he set out to plan for the concert’s entertainment, and the guest list reflects that focus.

Concert pianist and St. Thomas member Bettie Miller, who has performed in concerts around the country, will be playing some classical masterworks.

There will also be several organ and piano duets performed by recognizable faces around the Camellia City, including Pat Skipper and Don Daniels of Dunklin & Daniels Funeral Home.

Rhonda Bentley will likewise contribute a handful of flashy pieces and a hymn arrangement, as well as several of her students that will contribute light classical pieces and, potentially, some arrangements of popular songs.

For Kennedy, incorporating the city’s most talented youth in the dedication service was of the utmost importance.

“I thought it would be a good idea to have these young people show off a little bit and let the community get to know them, as they are really good players,” Kennedy said.

Younger contributors include brother and sister Lynn and James Choi, who are no strangers to performing onstage as regular contributors to shows at the Ritz Theatre.  Absalom Adams is a student at Greenville High School who similarly played with the band in Putting on the Ritz last year, where he left a lasting impression on Kennedy. He will be adding a piece to the extravaganza that he has arranged himself.

Kennedy himself is writing a special piece for the program called Dueling Keyboards, which will be in the style of Dueling Banjos, a piece from the classic film, “Deliverance.”

Two other concerts will follow the extravaganza in the fall, with a British violinist making an appearance in November and a Montgomery youth chorale following in December.

“When you combine us with the arts council programs and the newly formed community theater group, we’re offering the community a pretty good selection of entertainment,” Kennedy said.

“Combine all of that with football and other things going on around town, and people are going to have to start picking and choosing.”

Nearly half of the 185-person limit has been filled for the Keyboard Extravaganza. Those interested in participating are asked to contact St. Thomas Episcopal Church at (334) 382-8914 or