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Celebrated conductor returns to OPAS Dec. 10

October 22, 2021 - 00:00
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  • Article Image Alt Text
    Mikki Sodergren
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Stuart Malina
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    Lakisha Jones

Stuart Malina’s debut with the Oconee Performing Arts Society was met with such overwhelmingly positive feedback that OPAS has invited him to return to ring in the season with Fa-la-la on Dec. 10. Stuart will lead a symphony orchestra and American Idol star Lakisha Jones in a holiday extravaganza with all the trimmings: Song, dance, Santa, and so much more. Tickets for this year’s Fa-la-la are on sale now. Tickets are $95 and $75 and can be purchased by contacting the OPAS office.

Maestro Malina, a Tony Award winner, sets the tone for every performance with his jovial repartee and masterful skills on the podium. He will lead the hand-selected symphony featuring some of Georgia’s top musicians. He also happens to be a celebrated concert pianist, so expect to hear him play a surprise snippet.

Guest artist Lakisha Jones’ last album, “So Glad I’m Me,” was full of expressive, full-bodied, and arresting vocals. She segued from Idol to the Broadway stage for The Color Purple, where she played the pivotal character “Sophia.” In the role, she alternated with R&B icon Chaka Khan, who became her mentor. Jones participated in Khan’s 35th Anniversary Tour. In addition to her work on TV and Broadway, Lakisha is a frequent guest vocalist with major symphonies across the globe.

Rounding out the cast is the award-winning soprano, Mikki Sodergren. With the gift of changing vocal styles quickly and often, Mikki’s vocal flexibility has afforded her many excellent musical opportunities. She starred as Eponine (Les Miserables) Aldonza/Dulcinea (Man of La Mancha), and made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Requiem for the Living. She has been a soloist with the Jacksonville Symphony, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Savannah Philharmonic, New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and The Charleston Symphony, among many others. Ms. Sodergren’s performance of “Ave Maria” promises to be a highlight.

One of the first questions newly appointed Artistic Director Doug LaBrecque asked of OPAS patrons was, “Tell me about your most memorable OPAS performance.” The resounding overall answer, “The Fa-la-la holiday show was one of the best.” The 2008 performance featured four of Mr. LaBrecque’s colleagues, Brent Barrett, Lisa Vroman, Debbie Gravitte, and J. Mark McVey. The concert was made possible by generous support from longtime supporters Lee & Carol Arberg and Dick & Wendy O’Toole (current OPAS Board Secretary).

Carol Arberg said, “We can still remember the excitement surrounding the very first Fa-la-la program and the enthusiastic reaction of the community and OPAS members to the outstanding performance that night. With Doug LaBrecque’s marvelous leadership, we anticipate everyone being thrilled with this year’s dynamic show and look forward to a tradition that begins the holiday season.”

Paying homage to OPAS founder Roman Terleckyj, LaBrecque re-introduced Fa-la-la in 2020 to a socially distanced audience and shared the recorded video on the OPAS website. The widely praised performance headlined Grammy and Emmy award-winner music director John McDaniel. The thrilling guest vocalists, Santa Claus, and Mr. McDaniels piano prowess made for a memorable evening at the beautifully decorated Plaza Arts Center. It was clear to LaBrecque that he needed to make this an annual tradition.

In addition to Fa-la-la, OPAS will be presenting the Oconee Community Youth Chorus on Dec. 5 at Festival Hall. This free community concert will feature yule-tide favorites that will bring joy to the whole family. If you have a child in sixth grade through 12th grade and are interested in becoming a chorus member, please contact Sandra Meng, OPAS Education and Marketing Coordinator, at or call 706-467-6000.

On Jan. 14, OPAS continues its exciting new season with the appearance of Michael Feinstein. Following the concert, OPAS circle members are invited to attend a private champagne reception to meet the living legend.

OPAS has had a significant resurgence, and the board and staff look forward to increased membership and corporate sponsorship from residents.

When you become a member, enjoy benefits such as concierge ticket service, early ticket sales and exclusive artist meet and greet receptions, to name a few. Plus, your tax-deductible donations help change young area kid’s lives.

To become part of the OPAS family today, call 706-467-6000 or visit