After Millie Fields’ chorus students at the School for Creative and Performing Arts finish performing with the Lexington Philharmonic, they have a thrill beyond simply performing with the orchestra.
“They come back and say, ‘We’re professional singers, we sang with a professional group,’” Fields says. “And they are. People were paying to see them. That’s the big plus: they get to be professional musicians, not just a school choir. It gives them confidence.”
Since Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell arrived in 2009, Fields’ choir has been engaged a half-dozen times to sing with the orchestra, most recently the November 2014 performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Sunday afternoon, 33 fourth through eight graders from the SCAPA chorus will perform at the Philharmonic’s annual Candy Cane family concert along with another student group, the musicians of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra. In fact, the students will also be playing elbow-to-elbow with the pros.
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“For us, there’s only one real way to communicate to our students what it is like to be in a professional rehearsal, and that’s to put them in a professional rehearsal,” says CKYO director Daniel Chetel, taking a break from watching Terrell put the students through the paces, Monday night. “So I am very excited for them to experience that kind of intensity and that kind of kinetic energy that comes with that experience.”
Like with SCAPA, the CKYO engagement renews an ongoing relationship that in recent years has manifest itself in the Philharmonic’s annual new music experiment collaboration.
“Our players get inspired when they work with the kids,” Terrell says. “For our musicians, when you rehearse or play with young, aspiring musicians, there in an honesty in the music making and an excitement that is wonderful to be around.”
The Philharmonic always tries to use the Candy Cane concert as a chance to reach out to the community and collaborate, Terrell says. This fall, the orchestra has been in a highly collaborative and community outreach mode, he says, including putting together a number of college choirs for a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and a number of school and community performances by the ensemble Time For Three, when it performed here in October.
All three directors point out that while the Candy Cane concert is a familiar, family-friendly affair, that doesn’t mean the music is easy. In particular, they cite the centerpiece of the event, Robert Kapilow’s musical setting of the Chris Van Allsburg classic The Polar Express, as very challenging.
“It’s very 20th century music,” Fields says. “I have really worked with the students to get the parts right, but they have really enjoyed it.”
Chetel likes having the students on a tight timetable to prepare a concert. He points out that many of their concerts are prepared on semester-long schedules, while Candy Cane is pulled together in a few orchestral rehearsals and one dress rehearsal, the night before Sunday’s show. Terrell rehearsed with each group once before that performance eve meeting.
“It is great to give them a completely different musical experience,” Chetel says.
The timing of this year’s Candy Cane concert gives the student musicians another experience professionals frequently have: performances infringing on holidays and family time.
“We have had kids that have had to miss time with there families to be part of this performance,” Fields says. “But that is part of being a musician.”
And, in each group there are performers who entertain aspirations of being professional musicians. Even for those who don’t, Terrell sees a big picture benefit of, “building a broader, more engaged community in the arts.”
And that starts with students.
“It is a real tribute to Lexington that students in both of these organizations perform at such a high level,” Terrell says.
Editor’s note: Rich Copley’s son is in the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra that will be performing in this concert.
If You Go
Candy Cane Concert
What: Lexington Philharmonic family concert with the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, School for Creative and Performing Arts Chorus, baritone Paul Scholten and narrator Bill Meck.
When: 3 p.m. Nov. 29; pre-show activities start at 2.
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, 405 Rose St.