Show to air nationwide on PBS in December
Hosted by internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and taped at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, nearly 700 student musicians join the Belmont School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children’s Choir later this month for the taping of “Christmas at Belmont.” The annual production of traditional carols, classical masterworks, world music and light-hearted seasonal favorites, produced by Nashville Public Television (NPT), will premiere on NPT on Thurs., Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Central followed by the PBS premiere on December 20 at 9 p.m. Central, with an encore broadcast Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. Central. This is the 11th consecutive year “Christmas at Belmont” has been seen by a national audience on PBS.
This year’s edition of “Christmas at Belmont” features the University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble, as well as mass choir. The performance includes both classic sacred holiday music such as “The First Noel” and “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” as well as festive seasonal songs such as “Carol of the Bells” and “We Need a Little Christmas,” to name a few.
The Belmont University School of Music presented the 2013 Encore Award Thursday evening to worship pastor/songwriter/Christian artist Travis Cottrell during a concert in his honor. The Encore Award was created in 2008 to honor a Belmont University School of Music alumnus for achievement in the field of classical music. During last night’s award presentation in McAfee Concert Hall, Cottrell performed a selection of classical and sacred pieces as well as two original compositions: “Forevermore (Psalm 145)” and “Christ Be With Me (St. Patrick’s Breastplate).”
Cottrell, a native of Boone, North Carolina, graduated from Belmont (magna cum laude) with a degree in Church Music in 1992. His vocal talent was evident during his student years at Belmont. He became a Metropolitan Opera competition finalist and sang the role of Tevye in Belmont’s production of Fiddler on the Roof in 1992.
He currently serves as Worship Pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. A prolific songwriter and sought-after performer, Cottrell has performed or recorded with artists such as Amy Grant, Garth Brooks, Melinda Doolittle and CeCe Winans. He has also recorded several solo projects, including Found, Ring the Bells, When the Stars Burn Down and the Dove award-winning Jesus Saves Live. In 2010, Zondervan Press published his first book, Surprised by Worship: Discovering God Where You least Expect It, and in 2013 a journal version of the same book titled He Knows Your Name. Travis has been married to his wife Angela (a Belmont alumna) for 19 years, and they have three children – Jack, 16, Lily Kate, 13 and Levi, 10.
Previous Encore Award honorees include Clifton Forbis (2008), Daniel Weeks (2009), Drs. Daniel and Sharon Lawhon (2010), Maestra Teresa Cheung (2011) and Dr. Alfredo Colman (2012).
Who needs Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway? Belmont’s Musical Theatre program is stepping up to the plate to take on the challenge of being the first American university to stage a performance of the Tony Award-winning musical, Les Miserables.
“Belmont is fortunate to be the first university to receive the rights to stage a production of Les Miserables,” said Marjorie Halbert, coordinator of the musical theatre program. “Until December, rights were only available for professional theatre companies and an edited version for high schools.”
With the success of both the Broadway musical and the recent movie (starring Jackman and Hathaway), Les Miserables is the most recognized musical in the world. Forty-three musical theatre majors will be used in the 10 performances that tell the epic story of Jean Valjean amidst the destruction and passion in 19th century France.
Senior musical theatre major and Russellville, Ala. native Tucker Hammock is tackling the lead role of Valjean. “Les Miserables has such a beautiful message of grace, second chances and forgiveness… I have to say the biggest challenge is finding ways to make the characters/ story/songs our own. Most people are familiar with Les Mis; they’ve either seen the movie, or seen the show and heard the music. Our job is to make it like the audience is watching it for the very first time.”
On Feb. 13 internationally acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves sat down in the Massey Performing Arts Center for a conversation with longtime journalist Harry Chapman, who now serves as Belmont’s director of development and major gifts. Graves, who will be performing at the McAfee Concert Hall with various School of Music ensembles tonight, discussed her personal story.
Graves described her entire career as being her “mother’s fault.” She explained that each week her mother assigned her and her siblings a new activity. “One week would be sewing, next week would be something else.”
Eventually, her mother realized the potential of her children and formed the Inspirational Children of God, and the musical group would perform at the family’s local church. However, it wasn’t until Denyce’s brother, the lead singer, became ill that she reluctantly took his spot in the group.
“My mother pushed me onto the stage, and at that point, you can’t really say no,” she recalled. From then on, Graves’s passion for music flourished as she continued to sing for the church. She fondly remembers the church as her “first audience” and “nourishing ground.”
The School of Music honored alumnus Russell Terrell (’87) with the Curtain Call Award on Monday evening. During the ceremony, Terrell performed a few selections and students viewed a Belmont-created documentary on his career.
The Curtain Call Award is presented annually to a School of Music alumnus in honor of achievement in the field of commercial and popular music.
“We chose Terrell because he records an average of 1,200 songs a year, is first call session singer, has sung on countless albums. Has sung demos since graduation for a variety of song writers and has sung background vocals in countless concerts with some of these artists,” said Commercial Voice Assistant Professor Sandra Dudley, coordinator of the Curtain Call Award Concert.
A Texas native, Terrell began his music career as a studio session and demo singer and background vocalist in Nashville, Tenn. He has sung on albums with Keith Urban, Reba McIntire, Josh Turner, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Ricky Van Shelton and Lionel Richie, among other artists. He also has been recorded on movie soundtracks for “Act Of Valor”, Disney’s “Home On The Range,” “Flicka”, “Joshua” and “Broken Bridges” and as well as jingles for commercials for The Gap, Whirlpool/Habitat for Humanity, Prilosec and theme songs for NASCAR and CMT’s “Trick My Truck” and “Build It Forward” (Canada). Forty-six singles on which Terrell has performed have become No. 1’s.
Previous Curtain Call Award winners include Tad Wilson, Tim Lauer, Josh Turner, Ginny Owens, Chester Thompson, Jill Phillips, Will Denton, Fleming McWilliams, Melodie Crittenden, Jozef Nuyens, Gordon Mote, Tammy Rogers King, Bernie Herms and Chris Rodriguez.