Romance, intrigue and rollicking comedy are the key ingredients in a 200-year-old opera that captured the imaginations and won the hearts of more than 500 Warren County fourth-graders.
The occasion was the 2015 education concert by the Bryan Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with Asheville Lyric Opera at Tennessee Tech University on Nov. 9. Giachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” served up thrills and laughs as cast members invited local students to take part in the fast-moving action of this ever-popular classic of musical theatre.
“Two major arts organizations from opposite sides of the Appalachian Mountains teamed up to present a two-century-old opera composed in Italy and sung in Italian to our fourth-grade students,” commented Warren County director of schools Bobby Cox. “I think it’s a totally charming idea, and it was an experience our kids are not likely to forget.”
The Bryan Symphony--named in appreciative memory of the late composer and music scholar Charles Faulkner Bryan, who was born and raised in Warren County—has offered local elementary students the opportunity to attend, along with Putnam County pupils, the youth music appreciation concerts on the Monday mornings following the Sunday afternoon subscription concerts in November. The Rotary Club of McMinnville and supporting local businesses cover the performance fees of the professional musicians while Durham School Services, the Warren County system’s transportation contractor, donates the time of its bus drivers.
“Rotary Clubs all over the world provide major support for many different humanitarian, public health, community-building and educational programs,” said McMinnville Noon Rotary president Jeff Flatt. “Warren County’s Rotarians do everything from cleaning litter out of our rivers to funding scholarships to creating playgrounds that accommodate children with disabilities.
“Promoting music appreciation and education through these concerts for our fourth-graders is just one more avenue of service,” he observed. “We think it makes a difference in the lives of our young people, especially when surveys show that very few rural children ever get to attend a concert by a symphony orchestra or opera company. Who knows what kind of dreams and ambitions this experience may ignite in a child’s imagination?”
Flatt continued, “If we can inspire just one child to think and dream outside the confines of his or her daily situation, we have achieved something worthwhile. Great music has the power to inspire and elevate, to move us upward and onward.”
“Awesome!” was the one-word review from a Warren County fourth-grader exiting TTU’s Bryan Fine Arts Building after the program of excerpts from “The Barber.”
The expressions on the faces of the students in the concert hall confirmed that appraisal.
In addition to pupils from the Warren County public schools, students from F.C. Boyd Christian School and Covenant Academy, as well as home-schooled children, attended the BSO concert.
The task of coordinating all the schools for the trip to TTU fell to Autumn Turner, Warren County supervisor of instruction and learning, grades preK-6, and central office associate Debbie Haley, Cox said.
“We thank the Rotary Club and everyone who helped assure the success of the youth music appreciation concert trip,” he stated. “We also thank and heartily commend all the private donors whose financial support was so important in the rather expensive proposition of presenting living opera in Cookeville.”
According to Susan Luna, BSO executive director, the key benefactors for “The Barber of Seville” production were: the late Albert and Rosemary Ponte, Dr. Jason Clopton and the Center for Vision in Cookeville, Dr. Barbara Reynolds and George Barnard, and Drs. Angelo and Jennette Volpe.
Dan Allcott is music director and conductor of the Bryan Symphony, while Jon Truitt and Michael Cavaglia are stage director and assistant music director, respectively, for Asheville Lyric Opera.