Celebration honors longtime supporters

Thursday, June 9, 2016
Clay County Arts Council president Gail Burns and Rep. Joe Jett honor Larry and Cathy Norred with a legislative proclamation during the annual Celebration of the Arts.

It was a great night for the community. It was a fabulous evening for the arts.

The Clay County Arts Council's celebration honoring Larry and Cathy Norred and Richard and Shirley Simmons was spectacular.

From the moment guests arrived at the Rector Community Center on Saturday night, June 4, they began to admire the items offered for silent auction while greeting friends and neighbors. The great room became a festive ballroom with large tables for 12 covered in black silk appointed with tall silver and glass vases holding bouquets of gladiolas in pastel pink. Small table votives added soft accent.

Master of ceremonies, The Honorable Joe Jett, kept the program moving by inviting guests to the buffet tables, beginning with the honorees and their special guests. Roast beef, Hawaiian chicken, scalloped potatoes, steamed baby carrots, fresh broccoli with cheese sauce along with the Traveling Wisk's signature salad awaited. Delicious desserts of strawberry cake and white cake completed the meal which included tea, coffee and bottled water.

The audience knew the evening would be filled with special moments when both 2016 CCAC scholarship recipients and their families were present. Cody Crittenden displayed a wonderful original piece striking in design and presentation. Megan Johnson performed two vocal numbers, playing guitar to accompany her lovely voice. Both expressed appreciation for the $1,500 CCAC scholarships. Megan also was awarded the $500 Joey Pruett Music Scholarship.

The evening's silent auction is one of the fundraising efforts for the CCAC and guests were generous in bidding on and purchasing unique works of art by local artists.

"We raised just over $1,500 from Saturday night's silent auction," said a CCAC spokesperson. "That will fund at least one scholarship for the 2017 season. We are grateful to our community for their support and generosity."

The honorees' work within the community and their advocacy for the arts drew applause. A video presentation for Larry and Cathy Norred featured friend and fellow musician Jim Lambert, who was seated with the Norred family. Son Jordan sent greetings for his parents, as did fellow composer, arranger and fellow Arkansan John Purifoy, who had worked with "boy genius" Larry when both were associated with a music publishing company in Wisconsin.

Sophie Simmons, Richard and Shirley's young granddaughter and the daughter of Stephen and Jamie Simmons, performed a lovely ballet on pointe, one that presented her grace and beauty for her grandparents, who attend and support her dance seasons. Sophie's sister, University of Arkansas student Sydney Simmons, spoke in recognition of her grandparents. Her remarks captured their value system, noting the positive impact they make as role models for service to the community. Sydney is a marvelous example of a CCAC scholarship recipient. She shared not only her grandparents' belief in the arts, but her assurance that the arts improve the quality of life for any community.

In salute to the honorees, Rector's singing favorites, Tapestry, presented four musical numbers. Sherry Jennings, Chrissy Pazanowski, Dana Speer and Cathy Louder entertained an appreciative audience with their close harmonies and vocalizing skills. The selections "One Fine Day" and favorite "Someone to Watch Over Me" used Tapestry's signature harmonies and kept the audience smiling. A jazz arrangement with a scat improvisation highlighted "Time After Time." The group dedicated the toe-tapper "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" to trumpet playing Jordan Norred, stationed in Belgium.

"I'll save my money and forget Branson. I'll come to Rector and listen to this group," said Jett.

CCAC president Gail Burns recognized Tracy Cole for her exemplary leadership of the Arts Council and board this past year. She also expressed her appreciation to the entire community for their continued support of the Council's work. She then saluted both couples, calling them to the stage, where she expressed the Council's gratitude for their considerable support for Clay County Arts programming throughout several decades.

Jett presented both couples with Legislative Proclamations in their honor, and Burns then gifted each with uniquely designed art created especially for each couple. The art pieces were products from the hands of talented former CCAC scholarship recipients Joel Boyd and Jared Vaughn.

Boyd's portrait of Larry Norred engaged in writing music "captured his essence perfectly," said a spokesperson for the Council. Vaughn's wood-cut design of a large cotton boll with an Arkansas diamond design at the center "was just perfect for the Simmons," the spokesperson said.

To conclude the evening, the Norreds and Simmons expressed their appreciation for the festivities recognizing their work in the community. Larry Norred's remarks focused on the evening's meaning by noting the value of all the arts and art programming in education and the community.

"Because of one teacher, one volunteer, one arts advocate, my life changed," he said. Music is my life."

He then shared the story of writing "Amber Waves." His spectacular arrangement, based on the familiar America the Beautiful, was played by a Navy band and recorded. Sound men Joey Pruet, David Romine and Andrew Romine provided the final perfect pitch as the grand ballroom filled with the moving patriotic orchestration. As the rich volume rose to a crescendo, the audience sat poised, ready to show their appreciation for the music's beauty and grandeur, the artist's talent and willingness to share. At the last note, the audience rose with applause.

It was, indeed, a night to remember.

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