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ChristoFouri brings holiday music to Emma Kelly Theatre


December 01, 2010

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    The holidays are about spending time with friends and family and enjoying the presence of those you love. This is exactly the atmosphere that CristoFouri presents when these four friends are on stage engaging in what they love and sharing it with you.
    CristoFouri is comprised of four accomplished pianists, Dr. Michael Braz, Dr. Ed Barr, Jerry Gowen, and Jerry Roberson, playing holiday tunes that will entertain and captivate the audience. According to Ed Barr this Saturday’s show will be fun, fast-moving, family-orientied, and as with every CristoFouri performance, there will be a surprise or two. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Emma Kelly Theatre.
    “People love music of this holiday season and we have gotten requests after each of our performances to do a Holiday show,” said Barr.
    CristoFouri derives its name from Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the modern piano. Gowen explains that they considered several options for the name of the group but considering there are four of them, the name fit well.
     “I imagine that every song we play will be known by everyone in the audience,” said Barr. “That presents us with the unique challenge of having to present the music in such a fashion that it will be entertaining to the listener even though it has been heard many times.”
    That is not the only challenge that the group faces. Virtually no music has been written for four pianos, explained Barr, who personally arranged nearly all of the music the group will play.
    Early in Barr’s professional career, he was appointed Director of Bands at Charlton County High School in Folkston, GA. Two of his outstanding music students were Gowen and Roberson.  
    After teaching at the middle and high school level for several years, he served 30 years in the Valdosta State University Department of Music and developed the first Jazz Studies program in the Georgia University System. Barr has also won several national level composition awards. He has been performing professionally since age 15. Today, he maintains a 17 piece dance orchestra, a five-piece combo and is a popular piano soloist.
    Barr is in good musical company on stage. Gowen, one of the groups’ organizers, has been performing for over 40 years as an accomplished pianist, conductor and arranger, logging over 7,000 hours onstage. His career began in high school with a group that included Roberson. Gowen later spent 17 years working in various capacities at Opryland, USA where he was responsible for the integrity of the musical shows. He was able to accompany several Country Music Hall of Fame members and was instrumental in the early careers of Lonestar, Chely Wright and Diamond Rio. Gowen currently teaches piano and vocal coaching at the St. Simons Conservatory of Music, continues to operate Gowen Digital, and freelances at various venues in South Georgia and North Florida. Jerry has released one solo piano CD, “Places and Faces” on the Pebblehill label.
    “At our Holiday Concert we hope to invoke cherished memories of holidays past and create a festive, musical holiday atmosphere for the present,” said Gowen.
    More familiar to the Statesboro population are two local performers, Roberson and Braz.
    Roberson plays several instruments, including trumpet, piano, accordion, baritone, and guitar. He is also an accomplished composer and conductor. Over the course of his performing career, Roberson has performed with Bob Hope, John Davidson and Sergio Franchi. He is also a published songwriter and has had several pieces recorded by popular country music artists. Roberson worked for several years in television and radio, writing, recording and producing commercial jingles, many of which are still on air today.
    Currently, Roberson tunes and rebuilds pianos. He and his wife, Sharon, own Roberson Piano, in Brooklet.  
    “Playing in CristoFouri is challenging for me, but always rewarding in the end,” said Roberson. “Each player has different ideas, but initially we all want to please the audience with variety of music and humor while throwing in element of surprise.”
    One of his favorite clients is Georgia Southern University’s Braz.
    Braz needs no introduction to most of Statesboro. He has served as a professor of music at GSU for 22 years. Dr. Braz has also worked with the popular Statesboro Youth Chorale and Community Choir. Braz has written orchestral and choral commissions for professional, collegiate and community ensembles across the country. He is a recipient of an American Composers Forum, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund “Faith Partners” Grant, and a commissioned composer for the Georgia Music Teachers Association. In 2008, Braz was honored by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia as a recipient of their lifetime achievement “Signature Sinfonian” award.  Braz recently engaged in a one-year music teaching sabbatical in England, Nepal and China.
    CristoFouri is a gathering of four long-time friends, celebrating the music and instrument that ties them together.
    “We play for the love of piano playing and the love of music,” said Barr. “We wish for our audience to share this enjoyment with us.”

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