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.
This historic premiere answers the prayers of generations of Nashville artists, producers, business people and civic leaders for a national television showcase for the diverse artistry happening in Nashville, beyond the well-publicized country music industry. Launched and run as a live radio show with a focus on artistry and community, Music City Roots celebrates the diversity and dynamism of the new Nashville and the national revival of folk and roots music.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “When Board Trustee Eugenia Winwood suggested partnering with Music City Roots, her enthusiasm was inspiring. Belmont University has a long history in the music industry and as ‘Nashville’s University,’ we’re proud to show our support for the unique and unparalleled talent of Music City.”
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.”
Internationally acclaimed Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves, known for her portrayal of Carmen, will perform as a soloist and join various School of Music ensembles at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in the McAfee Concert Hall to present a concert celebrating the world’s diversity and bringing an awareness of tolerance, peace and unity.
The Celebration of Unity concert is free, open to the public and part of the inaugural season celebration of the McAfee Concert Hall. Tickets are required because seating is limited and can be reserved at www.bemont.edu/music.
As a young girl growing up in Washington, D.C., Graves performed in a family singing group called the Inspirational Children of God. Graves also belonged to her church “bus ministry,” visiting neighborhood families to encourage parents to enroll their children in Sunday school. Shortly after undergoing vocal cord surgery, she sang the Lord’s Prayer at the Cathedral service following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
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.