The SpotLight

Story G. E. Light

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

In December the West Point/Clay County Arts Council presented a fascinating exhibition, “Josh Meador: Art and Animation of Disney’s Golden Age,” drawn from various private collections. It included lobby posters for films, traditional animation cells and early production drawings on subjects like the whale in “Pinocchio.”

Two pieces really stuck out: an early wooden version of a Mickey Mouse toy from the ’30s with the thinner original appearance but sans ears, and sketches from the ’40s for Disney’s planned “Little Mermaid” film. One can clearly see Meador’s influence on the artists who actually drew the film when it was finally produced in the late ’80s.

The exhibition went beyond Meador’s Disney work to look at his involvement with the U.S. Forestry Service and depictions of Smokey Bear, along with personal artwork including oils and sketches and the tools used to produce them.

Meador’s subject matter for oils focused on two typical California landscapes: high desert vistas and seaside locales (appropriate given his focus on aquatic subjects in his animation). My favorites were the latter with their sweeping brush strokes and dark blue, grey and green tones.

One of the paintings even hung in the White House. Of special interest to locals would be a lovely pen and ink drawing of Temple Heights, the antebellum house across the street from the house in which Meador grew up in Columbus.

For 16 years, James Allen has been leading a regional crew of talented singers and musicians in “Columbus Sings Messiah.” For the Dec. 13 performance, 119 chorus members joined soloists Roderick George (tenor), Heather Warren (contralto), Chris O’Rear (baritone), and Elizabeth Swartz (soprano), conductor Doug Browning, Allen on organ, Sue Burkhalter on harpsichord, and an orchestra in presenting a selection of choruses and arias from Handel’s oratorio, best known for its “Hallelujah Chorus.” The setting for this event was the newer (2000) sanctuary of Columbus’ historic Annunciation Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic church in northeast Mississippi, dating to 1863.

The sanctuary is patterned after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, specifically with respect to the decorated ceiling full of stars, though the faux marble work and non-cross shape produce a more eastern feeling, like a church such as St. Mark’s in Venice. This church “in the round” with a central altar location seats almost 600 and was full for both performances as glorious sounds resonated around the room.

For many Golden Trianglers, attending the performance has become an annual holiday tradition. As a woman seated near me remarked, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me until I’ve heard the ‘Messiah.’”

Holiday parades are an almost-century old tradition in the U.S. The most famous, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with its giant cartoon figure balloons and live performances in the streets of New York City, started in 1924, trailing only Gimbel’s parade in Philadelphia (also a marketing ploy for a local department store). Then there’s the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade with its fancy floral floats in Pasadena, California. As overwhelming and preening as these parades can be, there’s something to be said for a good ol’ small-town Christmas parade.

With that in mind, I drove west on Highway 82 to attend this year’s Eupora Christmas parade. I had hoped to do a two-fer, attending both the downtown Christmas market as well as the parade, but inclement weather shifted the parade to Dec. 6.

Sponsored by the local Rotary Club, the parade’s theme was “The Christmas Star.” Like many a typical small-town parade, it featured luminaries (from the Grand Marshal, businessman Billy Hill, to various local beauty queens riding in open air cars — often Corvettes), the Pride of Eupora marching band, a Cub Scout troop (but no Boy Scouts, maybe they’ve outgrown such duties), and an assortment of local vintage automobiles, including Jack Hendricks’ 1955 Ford Fairlane and Clyde McCain’s 1941 Dodge pickup.

There was a posse of local service department vehicles, heavy on fire department stuff due to its festive red color. Santa rode atop Fire Engine 391. Red and white Santa hats abounded among marchers and attendees alike. The floats featured everyone from local businesses to civic groups to the local Mississippi State University Alumni Association chapter.

And the First Baptist children’s float, with dozens of little angels poised on a spiritual-to-secular continuum between the Bethlehem manger and a modern day Christmas tree, won first prize.