Erin McInnis checks in with this behind-the-scenes look at our 2009 production of Christmas at Belmont.
Every two years, the entire production staff here at NPT, as well as many people in other departments, come together to bring you, and the entire country, Christmas at Belmont. After two solid days of decorating, setting up cameras and equipment, designing lighting, and organizing and corralling hundreds of Belmont music students, not including the weeks of preparation, this year’s production is finally in the can. This past Monday night, hundreds of family members and music lovers filed into the Schermerhorn Symphony Center with the likes of Barbara Mandrell, figure skater Scott Hamilton and WKRN’s Anne Holt to be a part of Belmont University’s annual showcasing of the talented students in its music school. This is not to say that the program is now sitting on a shelf waiting to be aired. As I write this, the producers, director and editor are working around the clock to insure that the program you see on your television screen is the best it can possibly be. This year’s production of Christmas at Belmont was hosted by the multiple Grammy-Award winning Trisha Yearwood. Growing up listening to country, I have often underestimated how amazing many of these artists are. With all the vocal enhancing done in the recording studios today, it’s easy to be disappointed when hearing someone sing live. Not so with Ms. Yearwood. Sitting in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and listening to her sing such songs as “Take a Walk Through Bethlehem” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was breathtaking, and that was just during the rehearsal.
The Belmont music students weren’t too shabby either. When you hear songs over and over again as people are trying to get the lightening right and get close-up shots of instruments with their cameras, you begin to pick out favorite songs or moments. In my opinion, one of the best moments in the entire production is an arrangement of “Noel” (Todd Smith) featuring every choir, chorale and ensemble member Belmont had present. Seeing hundreds of students snap to attention and begin to clap and sway as they sang to the beat of a few drums, coupled with the Laura Turner Hall’s amazing acoustics, was an incredible experience. Other personal favorites were the Percussion Ensemble’s performance of “Patapan” and the Bluegrass Ensemble’s rendition of Patty Loveless’ “Santa Train.” These performances were joined by arrangements of “Carol of the Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Ave Maria” and “Christmas Fantasy” to name a few, all of which I’m sure topped somebody’s list of favorites.
Christmas at Belmont is an elaborate production. It takes hundreds of people to pull it off, and weeks of solid dedication from the staff here at NPT, to bring it to you. At a time of year when holiday music specials are the name of the game, it’s hard to make time for them all and still do your holiday partying, shopping, and traveling. If you only have time for one, take an hour on December 23 at 7 p.m. to watch some of the best Nashville has to offer. You won’t be in Nashville or Middle Tennessee that day? That excuse doesn’t count, as the program will be aired nationwide. So tell your friends and your family, bring some corn for popping, heat up some apple cider and sit down to enjoy some holiday classics. You’ll be supporting the future of the music industry, and your local PBS station, by watching NPT’s Christmas at Belmont.
National Premiere on PBS and NPT: Wednesday, December 23 at 7 p.m. (CST)
Additional NPT Local Viewing: Thursday, December 24 at 9 p.m. (CST)
Christmas Day on PBS: Check local listings
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Photos by Erin McInnis.