The Greater Mobile Bay Area Choral Society has brought 17 years of joyful noise to audiences and is readying for its next successful venture. If you want to lend your voice to the society’s efforts, there’s no excuse for hesitation.

Its website describes the organization as “an ecumenical chorus made up of people from many vocations. Our repertoire ranges from pop to classics and has included selections from Oratorio, Sacred Harp, PDQ Bach and many other choral styles. Members of the Spring Hill College Chorale are now joining us for our concerts.”

(Photo/ The Greater Mobile Bay Area Choral Society is auditioning for its 2016 season.

(Photo/ The Greater Mobile Bay Area Choral Society is auditioning for its 2016 season.

January is the open audition period for the second semester of the concert year. Interested parties are welcome to attend Tuesday rehearsals from 7-9 p.m. at Government Street Presbyterian Church (300 Government St., at Government and Jackson). If you’re intrigued by the possibility, visit the Society’s Facebook page or contact Artistic Director Terry D. Maddox at 251-434-9325 or by email at

Botanic artist teaches at garden
It was in his native England where Derek Norman turned his skill for visual arts into craft as a draftsman and designer. Before long, he turned that same talent toward his fondness for wildflowers and plant life.

Now Norman is the principal of the Midwest Center for Botanical Documentation and committed to graphic depictions of Midwestern American native flora. He’s received a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for his pen and ink drawings.

Norman is represented in the permanent collections of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He is in demand for classes across the continent and is now bound for Mobile.

The visiting instructor will teach a six-week botanical drawing course at the Mobile Botanical Garden (5151 Museum Drive) from Jan. 15 to Feb. 19. The class will meet Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $125 for members, $150 for nonmembers.

For more information, call 251-342-0555 or go to

Jewish Film Fest story of performing artist
Formerly an autumn event, the Jewish Film Festival has shifted to a midwinter slot in the midst of Mobile’s most mercurial season. With its January debut, keep your eyes open for one film with an especially poignant theme.

The film is “Phoenix,” the story of cabaret singer Nelly Lenz, who returns to Berlin following her liberation from a concentration camp. A bullet wound to the face results in reconstructive surgery but her relative anonymity allows her to move through her former universe with fresh perspective.

Based on the 1961 novel “Return from the Ashes,” it was adapted for the screen under the literary title in 1965. For this 2014 version, the filmmaker changed the locale from France to occupied Berlin.

“Phoenix” shows Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. at the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 per adult, $6 per student or senior.

For more information and the rest of the festival’s two-week schedule, see “The Reel World” column in this issue of Lagniappe, call 251-343-7197 or go to

Downtown studio hosts film fest
Roughly 18 months after Portal Studio (163 N. Lawrence St.) moved from Dauphin Street to the Auto Alley district of downtown, it has managed to sustain the momentum developed over the previous two years. Its quarterly solstice and equinox events continue to draw crowds with a mixture of every medium imaginable, including performance art.

Now Portal is hosting another unique showcase when it opens its Arthouse Cinema Salon on Sunday, Jan. 17. The event starts at 4 p.m. with films set to begin at 5 p.m.

The scant description boasts experimental, world, art, lowbrow and classic visual fare. Entrance is $5.

Go to the Portal Studio Facebook page for more info.

Big pop music sound comes to Saenger
If classical strains just aren’t your bag but you want to hear the fullness of a large ensemble, then you might want to head down to the Saenger Theatre (6 S. Joachim St.) on Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. That’s when Birmingham’s Black Jacket Symphony rolls in to pay homage to arena-rock legend Journey.

The outfit’s specialty comes in two portions. The first half of the evening is the recreation of an album as a symphonic piece, with musicians chosen specifically with the artist and work in mind. The album of focus this time is Journey’s 1981 chart-busting album “Escape.”

The second set will be a presentation of Journey’s greatest hits, complete with light display. The songs will cover the breadth of the San Francisco band’s entire career.

Tickets are $20-$27. For more info, go to, and be sure to flip a few pages further to read Lagniappe’s interview with Black Jacket Symphony co-founder J. Willoughby.