Culpeper State Theatre hosts Saturday night seasonal extravaganza featuring local talent
by Allison Brophy Champion, Culpeper Star Exponent
Culpeper’s own rising pop artist Alex Caruso headlines “Hometown Holiday” Saturday night at the State Theatre, performing seasonal classics in collaboration with fellow Piedmont-area musicians Taylor Johnson, Lauren Kube, Clare Sukley and crooner Mo Safren.
For Caruso, a 2015 graduate of Culpeper County High School, Christmas is about loving and giving.
“My favorite memory is performing two shows at the theater last year to help Blue Ridge Area Food Bank gather food donations,” said the 18-year-old. “I am so blessed to help others while doing what I love to do.”
Caruso continues to expand her musical horizons beyond Culpeper, having recently returned from a recording session in Atlanta where she recorded her upcoming single, “Hyperventil8,” with Dionne Osborne, vocal coach for multi-platinum recording artist Drake, according to Caruso’s manager, Gordon Humphrey who wrote the new song with her.
The new album is about half-way done, he said, hinting at an elaborate summer release event.
Caruso’s band, A5, will be backing her Saturday night at the State. They are guitarist James Tamelcoff III, a Madison County High School student; drummer Nate Delesline III, a former Star-Exponent reporter; bassist Aubrey Driggers, of Culpeper; and guitarist Andrew Dearing, a CCHS graduate.
Also as part of Saturday’s show, starting at 7 p.m., Caruso will sing “The Christmas Song” with Safren, winner of the inaugural Culpeper Has Talent competition. The Eastern View High School and Shenandoah University graduate has spent much of 2015 living and making music in Los Angeles, and is looking forward to getting back on his hometown stage. For Safren, every holiday season creates that signature warm feeling.
“You can’t help but smile when you drive downtown and see the lights lit up on Davis Street,” he said, describing a favorite, spirited holiday get-together in a friend’s Davis Street apartment that included a jaunt to the nearby restaurant/bar at The Pier. “Nothing too crazy, but it was a happy time.”
Being on the West Coast, where he recently released a new jazz/pop single, “Autumn Leaves,” has been the sweetest experience yet, Safren said, hearkening still to his roots.
“Seven months is the longest I’ve ever been away from home. I forgot how quaint and comforting Culpeper is. It truly is home,” he said.
Johnson, Kube and Sukley will open “Hometown Holiday” with their own signature sounds.
For Johnson, a favorite Christmas memory is from girlhood: singing with her dad as he played guitar and she trimmed the tree.
“I remember I was either singing along with him or covering the guitar strings with my little hands and pouting because he was playing a song I didn’t like,” said the Culpeper Has Talent finalist and CCHS student. “I still think that was my favorite part of Christmas, just decorating the tree and singing at the top our lungs like dorks.”
Another Culpeper Has Talent veteran, singer Kube, said music has always been an intregal part of the holidays.
“Jingle Bells was one of the first songs I knew the lyrics to,” she said. “Some of my favorite Christmas memories were spent singing along and listening to Christmas music on Christmas Eve with my family.”
Musical memories topped the list as well for Sukley, playing with her band at a Chrsitmas party.
“I also love when it’s Christmas day and all we do is eat cookies, then I’ll get on my guitar and we’ll sing Christmas tunes,” she said.
Music of the season will dominate the weekend’s show at the State Theatre, creating new memories in a historic facility dating back to the 1930s.
Headliner Caruso said the arts center holds a special place in her heart, and that she can’t imagine Culpeper without the State Theatre.
“It is changing people’s lives,” she said. “I am praying they will be successful in raising the money that they need.”
The nonprofit theater is more than a quarter of the way towards raising the $400,000 needed for next year’s operations.
“We can’t let the State go dark again,” Caruso added, thanking the theater for having her back again. “This is my third holiday show there and it means so much to me that they invited me to be a part of their big holiday line-up. They truly support local talent.”
Proceeds from “Hometown Holiday” will benefit cancer reseach through a crowdfunding, performance-focused nonprofit with which Caruso has collaborated before, Sound Effects, based in Connecticut.
“With my music, I want others to use their gifts for good as well,” Caruso said.
She will be signing autographs for fans after Saturday’s performance. The special evening of cheer starts at 6 p.m. with a holiday pre-party upstairs in the black box theater space with complimentary catering from Buffalo Wild Wings, event sponsor along with The State Theatre, Sound Affects, Beer Hound Brewery, Cintas, Culpeper Wood Preserves and Hump Day.
Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for aged 13 and older. For information see officialalexcaruso.com or culpepertheatre.org
Allison Brophy Champion is a news reporter for The Culpeper Star-Exponent. You can contact her at 540-825-0771 ext. 101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.