History sings in Picayune

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The songwriting team of Ralph Gordon and Richelle Putnam presented “A Mother’s Son,” a musical soundtrack, last weekend in Picayune. Putnam, founder and current president of the Mississippi Writers Guild, sang all eight songs from the duo’s C.D. while Gordon provided the spoken transitions.

The soundtrack was first conceived when Gordon of Union was commissioned by Newton Theater Company and Newton Chamber of Commerce to write a Civil War drama. He promptly joined forces with two other writers, one being Putnam, to write “A Mother’s Son,” a play which was later produced by Newton Theater Company.

The collaboration continued when Putnam and Gordon decided to write a companion soundtrack of the same title and an adaptation of the original drama titled “The Women of Potta Chitto.” This much tighter version of the original, according to the show’s creators, tells the story of the Civil War from the vantage point of three mothers — history with a woman’s touch.

#PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans set the stage for the Picayune premiere of the live musical performance of the soundtrack. The intimate setting provided the perfect backdrop for the intimate performance — Gordon, Putnam and a guitar — before a receptive audience.

Gordon cleverly set the ambiance for each song by painting scenery with mini-monologues full of vivid imagery before Putnam’s voice floated in and tugged at the heartstrings. Her sound could only be described as rich and chocolatey; a pure tone that was as soul-satisfying as a mug of hot cocoa on a chilly winter morning.

One song in particular showed the true genius of the Gordon/Putnam collaboration — “Rebel Soldier.” The music was just as down and dirty like one might imagine the battlefield and the lyrics spoke volumes about war: It was a rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight. As Putnam scooped and dove for the gritty melody, the listeners undoubtedly, happily followed her on the journey.

While Picayune will unfortunately have to wait a while longer to see the full length drama “Women of Potta Chitto” performed, a tasty teaser was fed to the audience on Friday night. Three actors performed a small scene during the song “How Many Can You Take.” Priscilla Davis, Donnis Davis and Kyle Brady, in full period regalia, did a commendable job of demonstrating the desperate situation for the dead and dying war victims and those trying to help them.

Friday night’s performance was presented in part by the newly formed Greater Picayune Arts Council, GPAC, who will also be hosting “Art Works” 2008, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday, October 18 at the Centraplex (Old Mississippi Mall). For more information, call 601-569-2138 or email artscouncilpicayune@yahoo.com.