In honor of acclaimed composer Jerry Herman, the Utah Symphony Orchestra performed “Jerry Herman: The Broadway Legacy Concert” at Abravanel Hall on Feb. 11. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a charitable organization, produces such shows in order to conserve a history of music and foster talent going into the future.
Vocalist Scott Coulter explained the impact of the concert. “What sets this concert apart is the fact that it is sponsored by The ASCAP Foundation, with the express purpose of reaching a new generation of theatergoers and music lovers.”
The show includes spectacular performances by Coulter himself as well as vocalists Jason Graae, Klea Blackhurst, Debbie Gravitte and Ron Raines singing together and individually pieces from Jerry Herman’s musical compositions appearing in shows like “Mack and Mabel”, “Milk and Honey” and “Hello, Dolly!”.
Blackhurst, who is originally from Salt Lake, led a master class with students in the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah. The students performed Jerry Herman songs and received vocal instruction. Of those students, Wilson Hicken and Jamie Traxler were chosen to participate in the concert on Saturday.
“It’s a way for us all to give back to music communities around the country and encourage young folks to follow their dreams,” said Coulter about the master class.
With only days to spare, Hicken and Traxler learned choreography and the lyrics to the song “With You On My Arm” from La Cage Aux Folles and performed it on the night of the show.
“I had to stop and breathe because it’s surreal to be able to be on stage and constantly be around these five performers who have the careers that we all aspire to have,” said Traxler, a Musical Theatre major earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
Traxler said she experienced some nerves in anticipation of the performance, but once on stage she was finally able to relax and put her talents and knowledge to good use. Traxler continued, “It’s surreal to be able to sing with an orchestra of that magnitude because it doesn’t happen very often . . . It happens maybe once or twice in your lifetime and I’ve already gotten to experience it.”
Coulter said, “Experiencing a symphony concert for the first time can be a magical and truly life-changing experience. We hear music everywhere nowadays – in our homes, in our cars, on our phones, it’s everywhere. But most people rarely, if ever, get to hear it performed live by such an enormous number of musicians. It’s unlike anything you can imagine. It has more colors and dynamics and excitement than recorded music and even more than music heard in most concert settings.”