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Harmony for Hounds


By Tommy & Nancy Brannon

Some folks might have thought that the Oak Grove foxhounds would “sing” at the Harmony for Hounds soiree. But their voices, lovely as they are when “speaking” to the line, would be no match for the glorious operatic voices of Amanda McGee’s friends at Opera Memphis. It brought goose bumps to hear these voices, which can fill an auditorium, up close and personal. Even if folks didn’t know opera or didn’t think they liked opera, they were spellbound by the arias and popular songs sung by these talented performers. Eighty four people attended the soirée, enjoying an abundance of food and libations as well as the music.

Amanda is Jt. Master and Huntsman for Oak Grove Hunt Club as well as a performer with Opera Memphis. She uses her fabulous mezzo-soprano voice in the hunt field to help train the Oak Grove hounds. There’s nothing like a little Puccini to help bond the pack!

The venue for benefit concert for Oak Grove Hunt Club and Strawberry Plains Audubon Society, held Saturday July 12, 2018, couldn’t have been lovelier. The Davis House, built in 1851by Ebenezer Nelms Davis and his wife, Martha Greenlee Davis, sits stately on the hundreds of acres that surround it, the land named “Strawberry Plains” for its abundance of wild strawberries. These days it is the historical centerpiece of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, located just north of Holly Springs, Mississippi. It is the main “lookout station” for viewing Hummingbirds in the back yard at the annual Hummingbird and Nature Festival each September. Other times of the year it is a wedding and special occasion venue.

Playing the grand piano in the Davis House parlor was pianist and voice teacher Tommy Gaines.

The evening’s singers included:

Soprano Tatianna (Tanisha) Ward, who is a former Artist-in-Residence with Opera Memphis and the winner of an Emerging Artist Grant from Arts Memphis. She sang “My Man’s Gone” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, “O Soave Fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Boheme, and “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca.

Baritone Marcus King sang “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime, by Stephen Flaherty, and “Tanzlied des Pierrot” from The Dead City by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Marcus holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Education, cum laude, and a Masters in Vocal performance from the University of Memphis. He has performed in quite a number of Opera Memphis productions, as well as in Europe and England.  

Soprano Amanda Quinn performed “Quando me’n vo” from Puccini’s La Boheme and Violetta’s solo from the Brindisi (a toast song that celebrates love and life) in Verdi’s La Traviata.

Tenor Joshua Quinn (Amanda’s husband) delighted the audience with the humorous “Tale of the Oyster” by Cole Porter and later sang “Sarah” from The Civil War, a musical written by Frank Wildhom and Gregory Boyd, with lyrics by Jack Murphy.

Mezzo Soprano Amanda McGee, organizer of the event, sang “Cara sposa” from Handel’s Rinaldo.

Evelyn McGee, daughter of Amanda and Dr. Shannon McGee, added some songs from a child’s perspective:  “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman and “All the Things You Are” from Very Warm For May, by Kern and Hammerstein. Evelyn, 11, has already performed in several Opera Memphis productions.

Tenor Drew Massengale sang “Giants in the Sky” from Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, “Un’aura Amorosa” from Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart, and “Anthem” from Chess by Anthony Warlow.

Tenor Russell Gammon sang “Vesti la giubba” (put on the costume) from Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. Enrico Caruso’s recordings of this aria were among the top selling records of the day and reached over a million sales.
The singers also teamed up for several duets and trios.

Amanda McGee teamed with Amanda Quinn to sing the “Flower Duet,” a famous duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé.

Russell Gammon and Tanisha Ward sang “O Soave Fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Boheme.

Josh Quinn and Drew Massengale sang “Lilly’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden.

Josh, Drew, and Russell sang the trio“Fugue for Tinhorns,” the first song in the musical Guys and Dolls. It is performed by the characters Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet and Rusty Charlie.   

Russell, Josh, and Marcus sang the “Libiamo ne' lieti calici,” otherwise known as the “brindisi” (the drinking song), from Verdi’s La traviata, one of many highly recognizable operatic tunes. The trio was joined by the entire ensemble to complete the evening’s performance, to the delight of the audience swaying to the jaunty tune.

Oak Grove Hunt Club has been enjoying the sport of fox hunting since its founding in 1946. The season runs from  October through mid March. There are several hunt locations (fixtures) in both Mississippi and Tennessee. Guests are welcome to hunt. Contact the secretary Dana Lackey at 901-359-7945.

Strawberry Plains Audubon Center hosts its annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Festival September 7-9, 2018.

Find more information and the schedule of events at:, or call 662-252-1155.

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