Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA's 'Big River' and 'Cherryholmes Bluegrass Christmas' feature American music

November 4, 2008 - Sylvia Bierschenk

NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - East Texans will have ample opportunities to enjoy the sounds of bluegrass, country, gospel and more as the Stephen F. Austin State University College of Fine Arts presents the Tony Award-winning musical "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Cherryholmes Bluegrass Christmas."

The musical rendition of Mark Twain's classic novel, which features songs by legendary country artist Roger Miller ("King of the Road"), will open at 7:30 p.m. in W.M. Turner Auditorium on Tuesday, Nov. 18, and run through Saturday, Nov. 22.

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, Cherryholmes will present its Christmas special at 7:30 p.m., also in W.M. Turner Auditorium. Touted as "America's new first family of bluegrass," the group is known for its hard-driving instrumental virtuosity and explosive vocal harmonies, said Sylvia Bierschenk, SFA director of Arts Information.

"We are excited to present both of these shows as a part of our University Series," said John W. Goodall, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts. "'Big River' will showcase the vast pool of talent in the Schools of Theatre and Music, and the Cherryholmes concert will bring to Nacogdoches a group who appears regularly on the Grand Ole Opry. What a week!"

Dr. David Howard, music director for "Big River," said he was fortunate to be able to find the musicians he needed for the Broadway musical in and around Nacogdoches. "For the most part, our students and faculty are not trained on the instruments and styles called for in Miller's songs, but, thankfully, we live in an area that strongly supports traditional American music."

Community members performing in the pit band include Charles Gardner, bass; Sheryl Hartz, fiddle; John Howard, guitar, mandolin and banjo; Bryan Jimmerson, guitar; Garret A. Martin, trumpet and flugelhorn; and John Weigel, harmonica.

Many of the same instruments are utilized by the six family members of Cherryholmes. Patriarch Jere plays upright bass; Mom Sandy Lee, mandolin and occasionally the clawhammer banjo; 24-year-old Cia Leigh, banjo; 18-year-old Skip, guitar; and 20-year-old B.J. and 15-year-old Molly Kate both play fiddle.

Cherryholmes received a Grammy nomination in 2006 for its first album, "Cherryholmes," and when "Cherryholmes II" was released in 2007, it opened up at number one on the Billboard Charts. The group has just released its third album, "Cherryholmes III." Visit www.cherryholmes.musiccitynetworks.com to learn more about the group and hear samples of its music.

Tickets to "Big River" are $18 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for students. Cherryholmes tickets range from $35 to $17.50, with discounts available for seniors, students and youth. For tickets or more information, please visit www.sfasu.edu/finearts or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.

"Big River" is sponsored in part by Tipton Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, and "Cherryholmes Bluegrass Christmas" is sponsored in part by Nacogdoches Medical Center.