A time of fellowship & festivals

Any time you beat three meter maids three times running in downtown Savannah is a lucky day.

Second only to waking up and finding the five baby chicks you bought the day before still alive - even if you’re not supposed to get an odd number because they tend to pair up, leaving one out in the cold.

That bit of information was not listed in my “chick management” summary, which stresses the importance of maintaining a 95 degree temperature “at chick level.”

But the real piece de resistance of this week -- and next -- is the music and the films and the break in routine, mostly but not all due to the exemplary Savannah Music Festival.

Lord, give me strength to keep going. Why doesn’t Festival impresario Rob Gibson ever look tired?

So many choices, so little time. But John Cougar Mellencamp (and Donovan), a non-Festival event at the Civic Center, versus Harold and

(and the music of Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam) at the Sentient Bean? That was a no-brainer.

“The point of this independent film series in a time when anyone can rent anything to watch any time they want at home,” said mini-impresario Jim Reed, also indefatigable, “is that film is so much better to experience with other people in the same room.”

OK. So the 16-year-old Isle of Hope girl sitting next to me on the couch has seen the movie “too many times to count,” at home with her family. Did that mean she wouldn’t venture out for yet another chance to see a young Bud Cort and the late Ruth Gordon? Hell, no.

Reed was right. It is fun to giggle and guffaw in unison. Especially with people who were people seeing the film for the first time.

It’s fun to stand up and talk about the movie to the person next to you. And to applaud and extol in unison, which is exactly the response spiritual singer Huxsie Scott was looking for the day she sang at Trinity Methodist Church during one of the Music Festival’s terrific noontime concerts.

“This is a good time to clap,” she had to tell the mainly white audience when she was moving through her version of “Natural Woman,” which in her recent focus on singing songs of faith she had changed to, “I know I’m a truly blessed woman.”

We got it. We caught on. We can follow directions. But then we fell behind.

“Don’t stop now,” she said.

That’s probably what the Rev. Enoch Hendry was thinking looking out from the back of his church at the crowded pews, every last seat occupied, every last person actively engaged, looking straight ahead.

Don’t stop now. Come see us again. What about next Sunday?

(But will Huxsie Scott be singing? That’s what I want to know. )

Two days later at noon, I scooted over to First Bryan Baptist Church and experienced more fellowship, more goosebumps, this time from the church choir, some 20 men and women resplendent in gold and red robes standing high on the alter in front of six beautiful stained glass portraits of earlier church luminaries, including the Rev. Andrew Bryan.

This church is on the west side of MLK Jr. Blvd., across from the Fahm Street post office, the bridge to South Carolina, Yamacraw Village and the aborted (or delayed) sculptural landscape project of artist Jerome Meadows.

It’s a beautiful church.

Lester Anthony, the owner of Lester’s Florist, played the organ. Lonnie Moore, the minister of music, played the piano, directed the choir and sang. He, too, played to a full house. But he, too, had to ask for just a little more response.

“Can I do the verse one more time?” he asked the crowd, his eyebrows knitted, his voice sure and strong.

At one point, the pastor of this church Rev. Edward Lamar Ellis, Jr., who was sitting in the front row, stood up, took a few steps forward, aimed his point-and-shoot camera at the crowd and snapped a photograph.

Maybe to remember the mix of the crowd. Maybe to remember the number of people in his church.

“We’re one of Savannah best kept secrets,” Rev. Ellis said.

Between the two noontime concerts, I went to Savannah State University to hear a lecture-recital by Brenda Wimberly about the “Art Songs and Spirituals of Women Composers.” This was organized by Ja Jahannes, a SSU professor, and his wife, Clara Aquero, as part of Women’s History Month.

She was accompanied by Maya Roos, the daughter of an 86-year-old composer, still composing, and a teacher at Savannah Country Day School.

Wimberly is concerned about all the unpublished works of African-American women composers, such as “post-slavery composer Florence Price,” Betty Jackson King and Margaret Bonds, a good friend of Langston Hughes.

“But let’s talk about now,” she said. “How many living black composers can come here to Savannah State and evolve? Ask yourself. What I’m about to sing should be in every voice studio.”

What I’m thinking is that like Reed’s independent film series, Women’s History Month and the Savannah Music Festival should be every month.

A nice thought, but how would we ever get anything else done? And how long can we keep beating the traffic cops to our expired meters?

We’re here. We’re now. We’re lucky.


Jane Fishman can be

reached at gofish5@earthlink.net.

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