THOMASVILLE — More than 500 well-wishers turned out Monday evening to celebrate the release of Allen Cheney and Julie Cantrell’s new book, “Crescendo,” which officially hit bookstores and online retailers Tuesday.
Party-goers and supporters packed Glen Arven Country Club to hear from the authors, to celebrate Fred and Winnie Allen’s impact on the region and to experience performances from alumni of the Thomasville Music and Drama Troupe, including three past Miss Georgias, a professional opera artist and two successful singer-songwriters whose talents were recognized, encouraged and shaped by the Allens.
More than 125 Troupe alumni, representing the Allens’ nearly four decades at the helm, returned from as far away as Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois and even England to pay tribute to the Troupe founders and directors they say impacted and, in some cases, changed their lives for the better. The celebration continued well into the night, with guests lingering far beyond the planned 10:30 p.m. cutoff to get a chance to speak to and reminisce with their mentors and former Troupe colleagues.
The planned program, which explained and traced the development of the book project, culminated with cabaret-style entertainment by former Troupe standouts Seva Day May, Allison Allen Cheney, Steven Clawson, Stephanie Bentley, Marlesa Ball Greiner, Audrey Grieme Johnson and Camille Bentley Lipton, with Fred Allen at the piano, after which the larger group of alums performed a rousing rendition of the Troupe’s theme song, “No Time at All.”
Allen Cheney, a Thomasville native and grandson of Fred and Winnie Allen, said the turnout at the reception, and at a surprise Troupe alumni rehearsal Sunday evening, exceeded his expectations for the hometown kickoff.
“When we started this project, we hoped it would be received well, but we didn’t expect this. ‘Humbled and appreciative’ doesn’t begin to describe how I feel,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve been proud of the work, but, really, we didn’t expect this level of response.”
Winnie Allen called the response to “Crescendo” overwhelming and Monday’s reception “just magical.”
“It was a beautiful night and a wonderful experience that we will treasure the rest of our lives,” she said. “We just can’t thank enough all the people here in Thomasville and those who came from near and far to volunteer their time and their talents and their equipment. It just filled our hearts with happiness and love, and it couldn’t have been more meaningful.”
Hesitant to name names, because the list would be far too extensive for publication, she did single out the book authors, Cheney and Cantrell, along with project leaders Ryan Smith and Amy Boland, without whom the effort wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.
Published by the Nashville-based W Publishing Group, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, the book tells the redemptive story of Fred Allen’s rise from the poverty of a rural Georgia mill town through the highest echelons of New York’s entertainment industry and back to rural south Georgia, where he and his wife founded the Thomasville Music and Drama Troupe, the premier youth performing arts mentoring experience that still impacts the entire region today.
Locally, “Crescendo” is available at two independent bookstores, The Bookshelf and Rayann’s Christian Book Store in downtown Thomasville. Cheney, Cantrell and the Allens were on hand at a “Shelf Talk” and book signing at The Bookshelf on Tuesday.
The book also is available nationally at Barnes & Noble stores and online at Amazon, WalMart and other booksellers.