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This classical music and TV review was written by John Pitcher.
Few college music programs offer their students the chance to perform on national television. At Belmont University, this opportunity is practically a given.
For the past 11 years, the university’s school of music has presented its Christmas at Belmont holiday show to a national audience on PBS. This year’s glistening Christmas special, taped in November at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, airs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 on NPT.
The entire program is a showcase for the music school’s remarkable versatility. For the better part of an hour, the school’s various specialty ensembles perform in every conceivable style – classical, country, bluegrass, pop-rock and Broadway. Belmont’s singers and musicians perform all of these genres with confidence and panache.
Some of the program’s most memorable moments feature performances by world-renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, the show’s celebrity host. Her rendition of “Ave Maria” with Belmont choristers and the University Symphony Orchestra is surely the highlight of the entire show. The song displays Graves’ immense range, from her chesty low voice to gleaming top notes. Belmont’s orchestra and chorus provide sensitive accompaniment.
John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.