The Nashville Symphony had been coming to Shelbyville for two or three years when there was a change in sponsorship, and the late Scott McDonald -- whose bank was the new principal sponsor -- decided to form a local steering committee for the event. He asked me to serve on it, and I happily agreed. After all, this concert is one of the high points of my year. It always falls right around the time of my birthday (this year, it follows my birthday by a week) and I always look forward to it the way I might look forward to one of my presents.
I am not any sort of expert on classical music. I can play two or three songs on the harmonica, but otherwise have no musical talent. But I know beautiful music when I hear it, and that's what this concert is all about -- beautiful music, in a relaxed, family-friendly setting. You don't need to get dressed up (although a few people do, and that's OK as well). It's also a great educational resource for the kids. Scott certainly saw it that way, and made sure that children and students were admitted free of charge. He would have loved the "instrument petting zoo" which will make its second Shelbyville appearance Tuesday night, giving kids the chance to pick up and try real symphonic instruments.
The instrument petting zoo, the visual arts show on the Calsonic Arena concourse, and a performance by the terrific Motlow College Jazz Ensemble all begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday. If weather permits, the instrument petting zoo will be held outside the arena.
Then, at 7 p.m., the Nashville Symphony takes the stage for its first public performance following this weekend's concert at Carnegie Hall. That's right -- the symphony is going directly from Carnegie to Calsonic, do not pass "go," do not collect $200.
The symphony will be directed by the wonderful Albert-George Schram, a native of the Netherlands who normally conducts the symphony's pops concerts in Nashville. He doesn't do too many of the symphony's community concerts, but we've been fortunate enough to have him in Shelbyville for a number of years. His charm and wit makes the concert fun even for those who might be a little intimidated about their first-ever live orchestra concert.
Last year, Maestro Schram took note of the permanent Waterfall Farms sponsor sign at the far end of the arena: "Why breed anywhere else?" He playfully suggested that the slogan would look good on posters advertising the concert.
After the symphony has performed the first half of its program -- ranging from Wagner to "Star Wars" -- the Shelbyville Central High School Wind Symphony, directed by Kayne Gilliland, will perform.
Then, at intermission, the Motlow jazz band will return. As I said, this is a family-friendly concert, and it's not uncommon for parents of very young children to slip out at intermission. That's perfectly OK; at $5 per adult ticket, even half a concert is a good value, and it's a great way to give kids a little taste of the arts. (That having been said, there are also a lot of families who stay for the whole thing.)
After intermission, the Nashville Symphony returns for several more numbers, and then we get to my favorite part of the evening -- the grand finale, with the symphony and the high school band playing together. The last number is always "The Stars and Stripes Forever," by John Phillip Sousa, and if you can listen to that without smiling there's not much hope for you.
For the past six years, we've rotated through the county's three public high schools as our guest artists. When I was a student at Cascade, somewhere back in the Pleistocene Era, neither Cascade nor Community had a band. Now, all three of our high schools have great band programs, regularly winning various group or individual honors. We've discussed setting up a four-year rotation, with the fourth year dedicated to a neighboring public or private high school, as a way of helping to build regional awareness of the event. Make no mistake, this is a regional event. We're fortunate in Shelbyville to have a facility like Calsonic Arena which is able to hold it, and the Celebration deserves great credit for letting us use the facility each year. Regions Bank is also to be commended for being the area-wide sponsor of all of the Nashville Symphony's community outreach concerts.
If you've never been to this event, let me assure you that it's not the kind of dull, dreary affair that you might imagine from the way classical performances are sometimes depicted on TV or in the movies. This is a fun, relaxing evening, full of music and fun. On behalf of all of us on the local steering committee, we'd love to have you come and join us. Adult general admission tickets are available at Regions Bank or at the door on the night of the concert. For more information, go to lakeneuron.com/symphony.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone."