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Wow, that's just so cool

March 27, 2008 - Cindy Votruba
Several months ago I saw a short news segment on Twin Cities guitarist Billy McLaughlin and how he overcame a neuromuscular disorder to continue playing guitar. What struck me was that he played the guitar by holding it up and down instead of horizontally and just moving his fingertips all over the guitar’s neck. I’m thinking, “wow, that’s just so cool.” I’m kind of a basic guitar player myself, but I was just amazed that despite all he’s been through in the last eight years since he’s developed focal dystonia, McLaughlin still plays in almost that same fervent manner.

And now he’s coming to Marshall Sunday to perform with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts. I get the chance to see McLaughlin’s artistry in person.

I talked with McLaughlin on Tuesday after he and his kids returned from the Bahamas for a week-long vacation (no, I’m not jealous!). I told him that I saw that news story, but I couldn’t remember what station it was on. He said it was on KARE-11 last June. I could’ve sworn it was later than that and on a different news station, but as both he and I said, months and years can sure blend together and go really fast. I mean, it just seems like last year when I started at the paper (yeah, right!). Anyhoo, McLaughlin said focal dystonia kind of is similar to Parkinsons. Two of his fingers started to curl uncontrollably. It affected the way he played guitar. He thought all was lost until he started teaching himself how to play his original songs left-handed. He put out a CD last year “Into the Light,” which was his debut as a left-handed guitarist. He said he continues to get better and can go a lot farther over time.

The Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra is no slouch either. The MSO was one of the first major groups to perform in the Performing Arts Center and director Bill Schrickel had nothing but accolades about the theater, the acoustics. The MSO plans to play pops songs, which includes numbers from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and a Beatles medley. Proceeds from the concert will go toward the Imagine Center for the Arts here in Marshall.

Speaking of the Beatles...after my fledgling American Idol fav Chikezie had a fun and rambunctious run with “I Saw A Face” and “She’s A Woman,” he opted for a ballad this week for the “Songs From the Year You Were Born” theme night. He was roasted by Randy and Simon and already knew his fate Wednesday night, bottom 3. Then after I saw Jason Castro and his dreadlocks go to safety, I knew Chikezie’s number was up. I haven’t seen Tuesday’s performances yet, but seeing Chikezie’s swan song, I could tell it was a little rough. Not up to the energy of the past two weeks. Oh well, guess I have to root for someone else.

Besides the MSO/Billy McLaughlin concert, there are plenty of events happening in and around the area this weekend: • Skating to a Kaleidoscope of Music, 7 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Schwan Ice Arena. • Gary Tole’s Tribute to Benny Goodman Friday and Saturday at Prairie’s Edge Casino in Granite Falls. • Southwest Minnesota State University Drama Club’s presentation of “The Shape of Things” at 7:30 p.m. tonight-Saturday and 2 p.m. in the SMSU Black Box Theatre. • “Broadway Meets Lake Benton” musical revue 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Lake Benton Opera House. • Organ, King of Beasts, Charles Kauffman organ recital at 7 p.m. Sunday at First Lutheran Church in Marshall.

Also, this is the last weekend the Marshall 6 movie theater will be open until May as it undergoes renovations, so go check out a flick!


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