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Covington trio to perform concert benefitting college music scholarship

Covington residents, from left, Becky Ramsey, Philip Skerrett, Jr. and Alice Walker will perform an organ and piano concert together on Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Covington.

Covington residents, from left, Becky Ramsey, Philip Skerrett, Jr. and Alice Walker will perform an organ and piano concert together on Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Covington.

The Arts Association in Newton County's annual Dave Young Scholarship Concert will showcase the keyboard talents of three Newton County residents, two of whom are well-known to local audiences and the other a relatively new light on the scene.

Twin sisters Becky Ramsey and Alice Walker, who have hosted numerous recitals and performances through the years, will team up with Philadelphia native Philip V. Skerrett Jr., senior organist at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta and staff accompanist and organist in the Department of Music at Clark Atlanta University.

The recital, set for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Covington, will include solo pieces as well as compositions arranged for the church's 31-rank organ and two grand pianos.

"We wanted to present pieces that are listenable and have a lot of contrast," said Walker, who is the organist at First Presbyterian.

"We're all church musicians -- Philip at Big Bethel, Becky at First United Methodist of Covington and me at First Presbyterian. I'm delighted to be the host for this occasion and we're all very cognizant of our church backgrounds, so we're all very comfortable with this program."

Although the three have never performed publicly before, Skerrett -- who was the featured artist at an Arts Association concert five years ago -- is well familiar with the organ at First Presbyterian, as he practiced on it for many years.

"That's how I got to know Alice," said Skerrett, who earned his undergraduate and master's degrees in music at Northwestern University in Illinois. "I'm sure I'll really enjoy this experience and the more I get into it, I think I'll like it even more."

Walker said she, Ramsey and Skerrett will perform together on six different compositions (with Walker on the organ and Ramsey and Skerrett on piano), including "William Tell Overture," "Maple Leaf Rag," a medley of George Gershwin pieces and Bach's "Now Thank We All Our God."

"Bach on the organ is absolutely wonderful," she said.

During the solo spotlights, Ramsey will play Liszt's "Prelude and Fugue on Bach," Walker will tackle Henri Mulet's "Thou Art The Rock" and Skerrett will present two pieces -- "Prelude and Fugue in C Minor" by Mendelssohn and "Toccata" by African-American composer Alonzo Alexander.

"I knew Alonzo Alexander from Clark because he was friends with our department chair," said Skerrett, who has also performed with the Atlanta Symphony under the direction of William Fred Scott and serves as the accompanist for the Americolor Opera Company. "He died about five years ago and this is a featured work that I believe has never been played publicly before.

"And Mendelssohn is a forte of mine since I was in college. I've done all his works and I hope to one day record them."

"This program probably has as much variety as any program Becky and I have ever presented," said Walker. "We've really enjoyed working with Phillip on it."

Because the concert is dedicated to Young, a founding member of the Arts Association (when it was known as the Concert Association of Newton County) who placed a premium on music education, Ramsey, Walker and Skerrett on Monday will host a pair of residency appearances for band students from Newton County's middle schools.

"Dave Young had a stellar career as an educator and had so much to do with bringing big artists to Covington," said Walker.

"Remembering those glory days of the Concert Association, we always want to honor him. He was a great teacher and was always interested in young people. He was always promoting students going into the arts, so this concert will provide funds for the scholarship that bears his name."

The trio has a special treat for the young musicians on Monday as they will combine forces -- with vocalist Madison Giddens (an intern in the Arts Association's office) -- on Carly Rae Jepsen's summer smash "Call Me Maybe."

"We wanted to be sure to play something that everyone will recognize," said Walker.

The Dave Young Scholarship is made available to high school students in the area who want to study music on the college level and perhaps pursue a career in the arts. There is no admission fee for the recital, but a donation to the scholarship fund is appreciated.

For more information about the concert, visit www.newtoncountyarts.org or call 770-786-8188.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens.