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FLYING HIGH

On Saturday, Nov. 12, assistant CofC professor of music Trevor Weston had an experience lots of up-and-coming composers would probably hawk a child for: he had an original work performed on the Millennium Stage at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. The fact that the musicians were all children themselves was, in this case, not something that made the experience any less remarkable. The 25 young musicians who performed Weston's work, it turns out, are all future virtuosos. They're the members of Cincinnati's Starling Chamber Orchestra, ranging in age from 8--18, and they were selected by audition from across the globe. The SCO has been the subject of feature articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times, and they've twice been featured on National Public Radio's "Performance Today."

Weston's composition, called The People Could Fly and based on a local Gullah legend, was commissioned as part of the group's "Fairytale Project," in which musical works are combined with folk narrative to emphasize the connection of musical and literary arts while adding a multicultural element to the production. His was the group's third commission. Weston says the legend, which many believe originated on Johns Island, is about a mystical group of slaves who are able to, well, fly back to Africa. "It's a great image of finding freedom and transcending a terrible situation," he says. "And I always thought the hand-clapping and the stomping of feet in Gullah spirituals sounded like someone trying to fly." See the performance yourself at www.kennedy-center.org. -- Patrick Sharbaugh

ON TOP OF SURFACE

Another local actor has landed a spot in a pre-show teaser segment for NBC's sea-monster-themed thriller/drama Surface, which is co-produced by Jonas and Josh Pate, the stepsons of local restaurateur Dick Elliot. In October, PURE Theatre artistic director Sharon Graci kicked off the show's fourth episode with a scene, ostensibly set on the beach at Sullivan's Island, featuring her reaction to a beach covered with dead, collie-sized calamari. It remains an open question as to whether Johnny Heyward's spot, which airs on the series' tenth episode this Monday, will feature the elusive sea critter around which the show is based, since he's required to keep mum on it. (Heyward did reveal that he plays an EMT.) In any event, you can bet he's working hard on his I'm-terrified-and-in-excruciating-pain-and-I-think-I-just-wet-my-pants expression. --PS

PUSHING THE PROGRAM

Looks like Spoleto Festival USA won't be announcing its 2006 season lineup in November as it usually does. The festival's 30th anniversary program has been a little longer in coming together this year, according to spokesperson Jennifer Harris. Organizers expect to have a 2006 program announcement and website ready for Jan. 1 -- about five weeks later than normal. That also means hopeful ticket buyers will have to wait until after Christmas to reserve their seats for next spring's festival. It's anybody's guess what impact eliminating holiday sales will have on the festival's total box-office performance, which has broken revenue records for three straight years. But if you want to see hot opera Don Giovanni's encore next spring, Jan. 1 is your best (and maybe only) chance. -- PS

WHOLE LOTTA HART

Good news for people who love the Good News: Beth Webb Hart, the local author of last July's Grace at Low Tide, has been re-signed by Grace publisher WestBow Press, the fiction imprint of Christian publisher Thomas Nelson Publishers, to an exclusive contract for four more books. Using mostly word-of-mouth marketing and plenty of appearances at book clubs and churches, Hart says her Lowcountry-based novel has sold 10,000 copies in its first five months. Her next effort, Adelaide Piper, will hit shelves next summer. The story, she says, "will chronicle the life of a small-town debutante/poet whose innocence is shattered when she is date-raped at college. As Adelaide becomes increasingly involved in activist organizations she finds herself drifting farther away from the life of which she'd always dreamed. In the end, she must find a way to reconcile the woman she wanted to be with the person she's become." Look for it in June. And congratulations, Beth. --PS

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