Short Takes: February/March 2016

singingvalentines-2d6b9e20Faces: Singing Valentines

“We carry Kleenex with us,” says Lowell Dorn with a laugh. As a singer with the Garden City Chorus’s Singing Valentines, he’s seen his share of tears on Valentine’s Day when he and his fellow barbershop harmony performers travel across the CSRA to spread love and cheer. “They’re tears of joy certainly,” he adds. “That happens quite at bit.” 

This year marks the 26th year that the Garden City Chorus has offered its Singing Valentines barbershop quartet program, which delivers a long-stemmed rose, heartfelt card and two songs—typically “Heart of My Heart” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”—to your sweetheart on or around Valentine’s Day. Dorn and his other quartet members don their trademark tuxedos with red vests early in the morning and don’t quit singing until late in the evening, with a single quartet delivering as many as 33 individual “singing telegrams” in just one day.

Four or five quartets cover the entire CSRA, including Aiken, and Dorn has seen his share of amusing reactions. Aside from tears, “It’s funny how some of the women say, ‘I’m going to kill him,’” says Dorn, before they tear up, call their coworkers to gather and listen, and snap a round of photos with the quartet. Ninety-eight percent of the deliveries are from husbands or boyfriends to their significant others, but for the few guys who get deliveries: “Boy, they stare down at the floor and don’t say a word,” says Dorn with a laugh.

Sometimes a quartet itself is moved to tears. In one instance, the Singing Valentines were scheduled to perform for a cancer patient at University Hospital—but the patient had passed away the day before Valentine’s. “They ended up singing to the nurses and the caregivers,” says Dorn. “Very sad—
not a dry eye in the place.” 

Aside from the Valentine’s program, the Garden City Chorus also performs in its own show every September at the Wesley Center at Grace United Methodist Church, local events and is available for hire throughout the year, including holiday events.

Want to order your own Singing Valentine? Do it before February 9 at midnight and the cost is $50 (regular price is $65). Singing Valentines are available this year on February 12, 13 and 14. Contact Garden City Chorus Director John Phillips at (803) 279-4198 or visit

take a bowTake a Bow

Although he was born in Poland, Beatles expert and musician Yuri Pool performs a striking note-for-note imitation of Paul McCartney and has toured around the world with his show, the McCartney Years, featuring other musicians in the roles of Linda McCartney and other Wings members. He brings his stunning rendition of Sir Paul and his 1973 Wings Over America tour to the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center on Friday, February 26, at 7:30 p.m., including songs like “Live and Let Die,” “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.” Adding to the fun: Concert attendees are encouraged to dress in their favorite Beatles-era attire and to walk the red carpet at the entrance to the event. 

savannah sunriseSavannah Sunrise

In December,  crews were scouting locations and extras were auditioning for roles in Savannah Sunrise, the latest feature film to be shot in the Augusta area. Billed as a road-trip comedy about a woman moving to a retirement community and  her daughter—and their lighthearted, soul-searching journey from Kentucky to Savannah—the film is set for a theatrical release in May 2016 and will also be shown on the INSP network. Fun fact: Residents of Brandon Wilde participated in certain shots in the film. “The town is great and the people are amazing,” says Gary Wheeler, vice president  of INSP Films. “Brad Owens and Rick Kelly at the Augusta Film  Office have truly rolled out the red carpet for our producers and crews. Augusta will be a hub for film production once industry filmmakers understand everything the area has to offer and we are grateful for the opportunity to be here.”


Last Saturday in the Park

What’s new in the world of blacksmithing, weaving and furniture crafting?

At North Augusta’s Living History Park, what’s old is new again as interpreters share a personal glimpse of life in the 18th century on the last Saturday of every month starting in January. The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and runs through November (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in July to August). For more details of each month’s activities, contact Lynn Thompson at [email protected] or (803)-279-7560.


by Mark Hodges

Perfect Timing

The band made a splash in the country circuit and opened up for the likes of Craig Morgan, Colt Ford and Darius Rucker, including a coveted opening spot at Rock Fore! Dough

IT’S BEEN SAID THAT TIMING IS EVERYTHING and, according to Daniel Johnson, now is the time for country music performers from Georgia. To test his theory, the Thomson native is packing up and heading to Nashville.

Unlike many other aspiring singer/songwriters, Johnson didn’t grow up playing music. As a matter of fact, he never even picked up a guitar or tried to sing until he was in college at Georgia Southern. He started out small, playing for family and friends, and by the time he graduated in 2011, he was playing in front of big crowds. For the next two years, he performed full time around Georgia and South Carolina and recorded two albums with a group called the Daniel Johnson Band. The band made a splash in the country circuit and opened up for the likes of Craig Morgan, Colt Ford and Darius Rucker, including a coveted opening spot at Rock Fore! Dough.

According to Johnson, he feels like he took the band as far as he could while based in Augusta and he wants to push himself and his career even further. So he’s embarked on a solo career, setting his sights on Nashville, which he calls “the epicenter” for music. The first step was to record a few songs in the country music capital with Reba McIntire’s backing band, which he released over the past few months to critical acclaim.

At the beginning of 2016, he made the official move to Nashville and is now putting together a Southeastern tour, which will bring him back to his hometown area in the spring. Fittingly, his current single is called “Where I Wanna Be,” which reflects his ongoing desire to be a success in country music. He refers to the long list of recent country music stars from Georgia, including the likes of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown and, of course, Lady Antebellum.

The way Johnson tells it, “Georgia is the leading exporter of country music talent.” Will Daniel Johnson be on that who’s who list of country music? Only time will tell.

the little boyTHE LITTLE BOY…

In the Graniteville Cemetery lies a white marker simply inscribed, “The Little Boy, October 1855.” Local legend has it that in 1855, a 12-year-old boy—sick and traveling alone—arrived by train near Graniteville. Taken in by a local family, he was never able to share information about his identity before he died. Townspeople donated funds for a coffin and built a cedar marker until funds could be raised for a permanent gravestone. Today, visitors still leave flowers, toys and other mementos to honor his memory.

road to hong kongRoad To Hong Kong

Last seen onstage in her hometown as Cosette in the Augusta Players’ production of Les Miserables, Augusta’s Maggie Salley is making her wishes come true with a new role halfway around the world. After graduating from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and being cast in an off-Broadway production of Carousel in the principal role of Julie Jordan, she’s now based in China, performing “Let It Go” as Frozen’s Elsa and as Rapunzel at Hong Kong Disneyland.

getawaysHilton Head
Wine & Food Festival

March 7-13

Why go: Love everything about wine? Then you must attend the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival. During the week-long event, wine lovers get to appreciate all varieties of the grape during events that pair wine with cinema, shopping, fine food, educational sessions—even waiters racing with a bottle and two full glasses of wine on a tray!

What Else: The festival offers plenty for both connoisseurs and beginners to enjoy. Experienced oenophiles will want to attend the Grand Tasting, an exclusive celebration of high-end award-winning wines, while wine lovers of any level will find a knowledge session that will pique their interest—from pairing wines with food, wines with the correct glassware, being a winemaker for a day and more.

Where To Stay: All festival events take place at Sea Pines Resort so guests may choose accommodations there or at nearby Sonesta Resort.

Insider Tip: Want to go? Then purchase tickets early online. All but one event and the public tasting sold out well before the event last year.

Distance from Augusta: 134 miles or 2 hours, 35 minutes

on screen off screenON SCREEN/OFF SCREEN



Boosters who attended baseball games at Evans High School in the late 1980s might not have been surprised to hear star player Ben Hayslip had made it big in sports. It turns out Hayslip had other goals in mind. After graduating from Evans High and Georgia Southern he headed to Nashville. In addition to hitting balls, he also honed his songwriting skills (one of his best childhood friends is country singer Rhett Akins) and has found success writing number one hits for such big name country stars as Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Josh Turner and more. In fact Hayslip received ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2011 and 2012.

Hidden History of AugustaHidden History of Augusta

Did you know that Augusta was named after a German princess? Or that downtown’s Haunted Pillar is so named because it survived a tornado that flattened the area in the late 1800s? Or that the famous Wright brothers opened a branch of their flying school in the city in 1911? University of South Carolina-Aiken professor emeritus Dr. Tom Mack continues his exploration of the history of the CSRA in his newest book Hidden History of Augusta. The book spans three centuries, from Augusta’s founding to contemporary figures such as soprano Jessye Norman, digging into the area’s colorful history.Hidden History of Augusta is available locally at venues including The Book Tavern, Morris Museum of Art and Woodrow Wilson’s Boyhood Home, Surrey Center Pharmacy as well the Aiken Historical Museum and Aiken Office Supply in Aiken. 

Hidden History of Augusta may also be purchased online at or on

columbia county wallColumbia County Military Memorial Wall

The curving brick wall with its rows of plaques is located in the heart of Columbia County’s recreation district—and that’s exactly how organizers planned it.

The Columbia County Military Memorial Wall was dedicated this past September and recognizes those from all five branches of the military who served and died for their county, dating back to the Civil War. Its location is ideal, just behind the Columbia County Library and adjacent to the Columbia County Amphitheatre, a popular event venue. The wall joins other military memorials in Columbia County, one located at the Appling Courthouse and the other at the Patriots Park recreation complex. 

Families may purchase plaques to honor their family members and loved ones for $500.
To order, call (706) 312-7374 or email [email protected].

This article appears in the February-March 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.

RSS Augusta Magazine’s Front Porch

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    Jay Jefferies stops by to deliver the weather and much more!
  • Episode 10 - Nesia Wright
    We had the pleasure of sitting down with Nesia Wright, owner and CEO of the Georgia Soul Basketball Team. Ashlee and Nesia discuss life as the owner of a basketball team, retirement and more.
  • Episode 9: Venus Morris Griffin
    Venus Morris Griffin, one of the top real estate agents in the Augusta area, stops by our front porch to talk about her success and her upcoming book. This episode is sure to set a fire in you to go for your dreams!
  • Episode 8: Michael Romano
    Michael Romano, self-proclaimed carbohydrate king and executive pastry chef for Edgar's Hospitality Group stopped by our front porch to chat with Ashlee.


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