Mac Frampton, pianist extraordinaire and founder of the Hollywood Hills Orchestra, has made a living working his magic on the ivory of a piano for decades. On Saturday, March 24, he will bring his unique style of playing to Francis Marion University as part of the 30th-annual Art’s Alive festival.
Born in Chester, S.C., Frampton’s quiet, small-town roots contrast piercingly with the glittering culture of his music. From playing at his father’s church each Sunday as a child to now teaming up with famous greats such as Bill Cosby, Roberta Flack, Victor Borge, Louis Nye, the Fifth Dimension, and Metropolitan Opera star Roberta Peters, Frampton has grown to become a musical icon.
Over the years, his style of music has evolved as well. Frampton started playing the piano at age three. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Frampton spent the early years of his career playing Sunday school hymns on upright pianos and entertaining at church suppers and Sunday school classes. He received formal training at the age of five and made his professional debut at age eight. From there, he continued musical studies of the classics at Erskine College and at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music where he received the degree of doctor of musical arts.
Prior to this training, Frampton hadn’t considered an alternative to a classical career. It was when classical pianist Van Cliburn endorsed Frampton upon hearing an improvisational pop, jazz piece performed by him, that he gave other music genres another look. Frampton describes his musical style as “rock-alternative” with influences from classical, jazz and rock music.
“When I was a kid, I loved all kinds of music, everything from the Beach Boys to Brubeck to Bach,” Frampton said. “It’s no surprise that my style combines all those elements, but I would say that my style combines my classical roots and my love of big, sweeping pop arrangements and movie themes.”
He has recorded 22 albums and performed over 3,000 concerts in his 24 years as an entertainer and continues to experience success in the musical industry. He has arranged and performed all-time favorite songs from films and musicals, including his recent albums, “Concert Grand!” and “An American Portrait,” which is a solo piano album made as an emotional response to the events of Sept. 11.
The East Coast style beach music to Top 40 favorites of the O’Kaysions will also highlight this year’s Art’s Alive festival. The group is comprised of three vocalists together with trumpet, saxophone, drums, guitar, bass and keyboards.
The O'Kaysions got their start on a small first-time North Carolina record label, where they recorded their biggest hit "Girl Watcher". The record became a regional hit and was picked up by ABC Records before becoming a national hit.
"Girl Watcher" was listed in the Top 10 for nine weeks and in the Top 100 for 26 weeks. Wayne Pittman, original member and manager of the group, has continued the O'Kaysions' audience appeal by performing favorite selections from the 60s to the 90s throughout the Southeast.
The festival’s lineup of talented musicians performing throughout the day, include NTRANZE, the University of South Carolina Madrigal Singers, Lucia and Levi, the Pee Dee Workshop Gospel Choir, baritone Jason S. McKinney, FMU’s show choir Cut Time and the Pee Dee Community Youth Choir.
NTRANZE is the house band for the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach and has been since 1988. They play a variety of music genres to include R&B, funk, rock, blues, reggae and jazz.
USC’s Madrigal Singers are a chamber vocal ensemble that performs music from the high Renaissance to the mid-Baroque musical periods. It was formed in the spring of 1999, and the singers’ concerts have featured musical selections by Josquin des Prez, Heinrich Isaac and Claude Le Jeune as well as other English, French and Italian choral arrangements.
Lucia Lexington and Levi Byrd have been partners for the past 15 years, and have been going strong from coast to coast as a duo and with their band, the Little Zippers. They play festivals, resorts, bars and even Caribbean cruises. This duo is currently based in Florence, but their busy schedule keeps them on the road 10 months out of the year.
Pee Dee Gospel Workshop Choir, comprised of area youth, will be performing the South’s finest gospel music.
Opera singer Jason S. McKinney will be performing art songs from Europe and American spirituals at Art’s Alive. McKinney has performed in the Opera Company of North Carolina, the Piedmont opera and the Asheville lyric opera. McKinney also earned a diploma in music from the North Carolina School of the Arts in 2002.
Cut Time is an audition-only group that combines singing and choreography. The show choir’s performances include venues ranging from local schools and service organizations to cruise ships and theme parks. In April 2005, Cut Time participated in Music Festival’s 2005 Bahamas Cruise, where they performed musical selections such as “Mountain Music” and “Up, Up, Up” and received a superior rating. In early March, the show choir performed at Walt Disney World.
The Pee Dee Community Youth Choir will open this year’s festival. The choir consists of youth between the ages of five and 19 and travels throughout the Pee Dee region providing Gospel/Christian concerts to congregations, community groups and others.
Visitors to the festival may bring a picnic lunch, or purchase food from a variety of food vendors sure to suit all tastes.
For more information, contact the FMU Office of Community Relations at 843-661-1225.
If you’re going:
Pee Dee Community Youth Choir, 10:30 a.m., Main Outdoor Stage
USC Madrigal Singers, 11 a.m., Fine Arts Center, Adele Kassab Recital Hall
Pee Dee Workshop Gospel Choir, 11:30 a.m., Main Outdoor Stage
FMU’s Cut Time, Noon, Fine Arts Center, Adele Kassab Recital Hall
NTRANZE, 1 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage
Mac Frampton, 2 p.m., Fine Arts Center, Adele Kassab Recital Hall
Lucia & Levi, 2:30 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage
The O’Kaysions, 3:30 p.m., Main Outdoor Stage
Jason S. McKinney, 4 p.m., Fine Arts Center, Adele Kassab Recital Hall
Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of four to be released highlighting the Art’s Alive Festival. Others will focus on the dance groups and children’s events highlighting this year’s festival.
#119 / 3-1-07