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.
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville announces a partnership with Belmont University beginning January 2013. The partnership will advance the educational and charitable purposes of both organizations by leveraging and uniting their unique resources along with the arts and business communities to create a thriving, sustainable creative culture in Nashville.
“The partnership with Belmont University will be a springboard for organizational growth and innovation in our work to make Nashville a place where the creative culture thrives,” said Casey Summar, executive director of the Arts & Business Council. “We are thrilled to find alignment with Belmont’s priorities and become a nonprofit in residence on campus.”
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “Partnering with the Arts & Business Council makes perfect sense in light of Belmont’s vision for increased engagement with and service to the Nashville community. In addition, this partnership allows our students more opportunities for experiential education in a number of areas that represent popular fields of study, including music business, the performing arts, business and law.”
Belmont University announces a Christmas gift to the Nashville community with five free concerts that are open to the public, as well as the nationally televised airing of annual holiday music spectacular “Christmas at Belmont.”
The first concert is Monday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. with the Faculty Brass Quintet playing in the McAfee Concert Hall. The Nashville Children’s Choir’s annual holiday concerts will follow on Friday, Dec. 7 with performances at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the McAfee Concert Hall.
The Belmont Camerata Musicale will offer its annual presentation of “A Camerata Christmas - Baroque and Bluegrass,” including a holiday tradition featuring Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and a sing-along with Kathy Chiavola and fiddler Tammy Rogers-King, on Monday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Belmont Mansion.
The Christmas Eve Carillon Concert concludes the series on Monday, Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. at the campus Bell Tower, located just off the corner of Belmont Boulevard and Portland Avenue. The concert features Music Professor Richard Shadinger playing traditional Christmas music on the tower’s 42-bell carillon.
Of course, the holiday wouldn’t be complete without the annual “Christmas at Belmont” special, performed in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center last December. PBS will provide a national broadcast on Friday, Dec. 21 at 9 p.m. (CST) of the 2011 performance, which featured nearly 700 students and faculty from the School of Music and was hosted by country artist and Tony-nominated Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy. Check local listings for additional air times. In Middle Tennessee, Nashville Public Television (NPT-Channel 8) will air it on Christmas Eve at 9 p.m. (CST).