The Southeast Arkansas Concert Association will kick off its 2015-16 season with “America, My Home Sweet Home: An Evening with Charles Graham and Friends” on September 1 at 7 p.m. at the UAM Fine Arts Center.
A native of the Baxter community near Dermott, Graham is the fifth of 13 brothers and sisters, and grew up on a large farm there. He left home in 1975, and attended Southwest Baptist University and Central Missouri State University before graduating in 1984 from the Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Okla. Over the next three decades, he developed a thriving music ministry and has recorded more than a half-dozen gospel albums. Graham has performed all over the United States and in a number of foreign countries.
On a visit back to Drew County in 2007, Graham discovered that the Baxter Plantation, where he had grown up and picked cotton as a child, was vacant. He made the decision to purchase and restore the old farmhouse and outbuildings. They are now known as “The Fountains” and serve as a spiritual retreat and site for numerous ministry-related and community events.
“Graham’s relocation from the West Coast to the Baxter community provides a great opportunity for area residents to be blessed by his wonderful voice, and we are very excited to have him help us get our new year underway,” said Seark Concert Association President Susan Akin.
Graham will perform a variety of patriotic songs, as well as some favorite hymns. Other locals set to perform at the event include tap dancer Chloe Hargis, singers Cara Akin and Kevin Henry, and musicians Ralph Hunter and Marilyn Patrick.
The event is both a membership drive and a fundraiser for the association, which is in its 39th year of providing cultural programming for residents in Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Desha, Drew, Cleveland and Lincoln counties.
Tickets for “America, My Home Sweet Home” are $20 for adults and $15 for kids. However, admission is free to persons who purchase tickets to Seark’s entire season. This year’s official season will include a performance by Ballet Arkansas on November 3, “Beale Canto Christmas,” a concert of seasonal music by a Memphis-based men’s chorus, on December 12; a dinner/dance featuring the Glenn Miller Orchestra (which includes longtime UAM music professor Gary Meggs as a new member) on February 6, and the musical “The Wizard of Oz” starring area children and adults March 3-5. Season tickets are available at the following prices: $80 for one (Associate), $160 for two (Friend), $240 for three (Patron), $300 for four (Sustainer) and $600 for six (Benefactor). Tickets for each event will be sold separately for $20 each, except for the dinner/dance, which is only available to season ticket holders.
“Part of Seark’s mission has been to give local children the opportunity to experience live theater, dance and/or musical performances free of charge,” Akin said. “Last year, these performances were funded largely through a $10,000 King Foundation grant, but the group cannot apply for a second one until next year, so we are holding two fundraising events this year to try and help continue the program, which is called SMARTS, or Schools Majoring in the Arts.”
The first SMARTS fundraiser will be the “America” program, and the second will be an Oct. 17 performance by former Monticello resident Ward Davis, who is having success as a singer-songwriter in Nashville, Tenn., and recently had a song he co-wrote, “Unfair Weather Friend,” included on an album of duets by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
Tickets for “America, My Home Sweet Home,” or for the “Evening with Ward Davis,” may be purchased in the office at the UAM Music Building Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by calling 870-460-1060.