Charlotte Festive Brass to present ‘Glorious’ this weekend in Badin

Published 3:07 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2018

No matter the town, no matter the era, music brings people together, and it doesn’t matter the music. Whether symphonic bands, show tunes or dancing chorus lines, the town of Badin kept step with the music through the 1920s and beyond.

The grand Badin Theatre, known as the best opera house between Richmond and Atlanta, once attracted performers and traveling theatrical productions to the fast-growing aluminum company town. Badin even filled the stage with its own band.

Then in 1958, the Aluminum Company of America admitted that disuse and costly maintenance meant the demise of the stately brick landmark.

No matter. The bands played on. Patriotic or beach music in the streets, at the volunteer fire department, or down by the lake. There were choirs, first under brush arbors then in church sanctuaries. And school-age carolers, or kilted pipers and bluegrass fiddlers. Jazz on the museum lawn. Guitars and banjos picking out gospel favorites. Recently, karaoke singers at Loafers and Legends Club.

So, what’s next?

What about a Christmas ensemble of horns, trumpets, trombones, a tuba, percussion and organ?

The idea comes from Albemarle native David James Mills, recently retired from a 40-year career with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Mills and his classmates from Albemarle Senior High School held a 50th reunion this summer, and a jaunt to Badin led to a conversation with Vanessa Mullinix about Badin’s past and future. The encounter between the musician and the business owner inspired a composition of ideas for Badin’s benefit.

Mills could see potential, and promised to return for an inside look at the Badin Baptist Church sanctuary. The bold, Romanesque-style sacred structure has easily dominated Badin’s main thoroughfare since the wrecking ball rendered half the central business district and the Badin Theatre rubble and dust. The town doesn’t even offer the luxury of empty store fronts. New businesses and any expansion of municipal space requires new construction, unless some buildings can serve more than one purpose.

When he returned to Badin, Mills and Mullinix met with Martha Garber, a Badin Baptist member, in the sanctuary aisles of the red brick church on Falls Road.

According to Mullinix, all it took was a hand clap for Mills the maestro to recognize what the space had to offer. He was taken with the natural wood and plaster surfaces, the wrap-around balcony, and the high ceiling, but more importantly, the sound caught his musician’s ear.

“An acoustic Goldilocks,” he said.

“Not too large, not too small. Not too live, and not too dry. Just the right amount of reverberation,” said the conductor.

The perfect venue is hard to find for musical programs where the preference is for natural sound. Badin Baptist sanctuary meets the criteria.

“It creates a warm, vibrant sound for the listener. And my gosh, the stained glass windows are so inspiring,” said Mills.

Following graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mills continued his studies with tubist Mel Culbertson in Montreux, Switzerland and The Hague.

The next step for Mills and Mullinix involved comparing calendars and gaining approval from Badin Baptist to host an event. The date was quickly set. Better Badin, Inc. took up the cause, and the Badin Concert Series was born. Mills is bringing the Charlotte Festive Brass to Badin on Sunday for the first program, “The Glorious Sounds of Christmas.”

“The latest version of the Charlotte Festive Brass ensemble was hired specifically with this concert in mind,” said Mills, and performers include internationally acclaimed trumpet soloist and college professor James Ackley, former principal trumpet of the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra. In this group of musicians is trumpet player, orchestra member, and teacher, Stacey Mills — David’s wife.

The program of traditional Christmas music will begin at 7 p.m. and last just over an hour.

Seating at Badin Baptist is limited to 300 since the balcony currently cannot be utilized.

Not quite the space of the old theatre which could seat 750, yet handicap access is available.

On Dec. 11, the community is invited back to Badin Baptist Church when the Stanly County Chorale, under the direction of Aza Hudson, joins voices with North Stanly High School Chorus to present Christmas selections by English composer John Rutter. The NSHS Handbell Choir will also perform at the 7 p.m. concert. This time a love offering will be taken. The Chorale’s opening Christmas Concert is Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. at Albemarle’s First Baptist Church.

So far, Mills and Mullinix say two additional Badin musical events are being planned for spring. First, an evening of Celtic music on March 23, 2019 right after the Badin Celtic Festival, then “Strings of Spring” on April 13 in conjunction with a tour of homes.

Tickets for “The Glorious Sounds of Christmas” may be purchased for $15 at Loafers and Legends or Cottage House Antiques on Falls Road. Tickets are also available online at