Opry around the corner

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What nearby group puts on a professional musical production of classic and current country music interspersed with gospel and corny (but funny) country bumpkin skits?

What group is made up of talented people who have regular daytime jobs who also spend countless hours tweaking and perfecting performances that are seen for just two nights?

The answer is: The Rocky Hock Opry, a group based in Rocky Hock, N.C., less than hour’s drive from downtown Suffolk, and just a few minutes from Edenton, N.C.

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Their rehearsal spot is an old classroom in a former grammar school which now serves as the Rocky Hock Community Center. The room is cluttered with wire to connect and amplify microphones, speakers, guitars and a variety of other electronic instruments.

Members of the group show up in their daily work clothes or whatever they found handy when they left home. The music they produce is filled with energy and melody and is all directed by Brian Smith, who plays keyboards and guitar and sings vocals and owns Albemarle Air Conditioners.

Smith joined Master of Ceremonies Jack Evans when Evans came to him with an idea to raise money for the Relay for Life. They joined forces and with a host of volunteers were able to produce their first show seven years ago. Each year since, it has grown and improved, providing a couple of hours of quality entertainment for thousands of Southeast Virginia and Northeast North Carolina fans.

The group produces a Christmas show and a spring show every year, each with showings on Friday and Saturday nights. So far, the Rocky Hock Opry has raised more than $200,000 for the Relay for Life.

Steve Mizelle, drummer, says, “Almost all of us got our musical starts in church.” True to that tradition is 15-year-old newcomer Kaitlyn Flythe, a student at North Carolina’s Tarboro High School.

She began her career as a tiny tot, when her mother played the piano in church. Kaitlyn crawled under her mother’s bench and sang along at the top of her lungs. She loves to sing, as evidenced by her enthusiasm during a recent rehearsal, where she put all her energy and lyrical tones into her songs.

Smith began his musical career in grade school, motivated by singing and playing in church. Now, in addition to operating his heating and air conditioning business, he spends time as minister of music at Edenton United Methodist Church.

More than 15 musicians and support staff work and play the rocking country music that is the trademark of the Opry.

The show takes place May 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. in E.A. Swain Auditorium in downtown Edenton, N.C., and tickets ($10) may be obtained in Suffolk from Billy Smith. His phone number is 925-4541. Seats are all general admission, so it pays to arrive early.