Meachem

Irina and Lucas Meachem

Like commerce, travel and education, the arts took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadway went dark, classes Zoomed, concerts and movies streamed.

Now, the lights are brighter, musicians and actors who survived shutdowns have begun to re-emerge. That includes hometown hero Lucas Meachem, whose fame isn’t measured by touchdowns or birdies — rather by arias and Grammys.

Shall We Gather, a recital celebrating the release of Lucas Meachem’s first solo album of th…

Meachem’s fields of dreams are opera venues and concert halls across Europe and the U.S. where the barrel-chested baritone from Whispering Pines brings down the house.

Now, this Union Pines football/basketball hunk will celebrate the release of his first solo album, “Shall We Gather,” with a recital followed by a reception Friday, Sept. 24, at Bradshaw Performing Arts Center, Sandhills Community College. Proceeds benefit Perfect Day Music Foundation, which the Meachems established to support young performers and promote diversity in classical music.

“We’re all Americans, even if we have different ideas,” Meachem said by phone, from his home base in Minneapolis. “The album includes songs that celebrate the resilience of the American spirit. I like to think of America not as a melting pot, but as a stew, where each (ingredient) has a different flavor.”

Lucas Meachem’s life reads like an opera, alternating humor with pathos, drama with reality…and romance:

Back in the 1990s, Meacham, Union Pines student body president, sang in the church choir and mowed lawns for pocket money. Career ambition? Music, maybe, although opera wasn’t on his playlist. Then, while attending Appalachian State College, he and some buddies caught a Three Tenors concert in Charlotte, where the young man experienced an epiphany akin to running away with the circus. Sheer, albeit raw talent opened doors to scholarships followed by opportunities at American opera companies.

Turns out this hometown hero could not only sing, he could act, turning the “Barber of Seville” into a rollicking tour de farce.

“My ambition was to make it to the Met (Metropolitan Opera House in New York) before I turned 30,” Meachem admits. He achieved this by 29, yet his first appearance at the Sunrise didn’t happen until 2017.

Along the way, Meachem met and married a stunning Romanian pianist/voice coach, named Irina, who refined his talent even further. They traveled the world, from recital halls to opera houses, earning enthusiastic reviews. Irina Meachem collaborated and performs on the album, which was recorded in 2020 on the Rubicon Classics label.

Enter villain virus. The Meachems’ glamorous gigs vanished.

“First I buried myself in a pint of ice cream. Then I threw all my efforts into helping others, which comes from my mother, who has always done for others,” Lucas recalls.

Lucas and Irina hunkered down in Minneapolis, their home base, regrouped, and founded Perfect Day Music Foundation.

Off months stretched into more than a year, which Meachem used to get into better physical shape, expand his horizons musically and “be the best daddy” to their newborn son, who now travels with them.

The climate is improving for an art-starved population, including groupies who have followed Meachem on his blog (with dreamy photos) and website.

“My schedule went from nothing to everything, with contracts into 2026,” he says. But with time for only one concert before he jets off to Munich and Madrid not to return until the New Year Lucas and Irina decided to launch their album in Southern Pines, with his mother Susan Zucchino in attendance.

Fame hasn’t spoiled this hometown hero, just as ebullient as when he scooped part-time at the Ice Cream Parlor.

“I’m humbled. It’s crazy. But I love the lifestyle.”

Contact Deborah Salomon at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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