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Gracie Keener to sing with Firelands symphony

Cary Ashby • Nov 28, 2018 at 2:00 PM

SANDUSKY — It will be time to “Celebrate The Season” during the annual holiday pops concert featuring the Firelands Symphony Orchestra (FSO), Firelands Symphony Chorale and
 the Caryl Crane Youth Theatre competition team.

Gracie Keener, of Wakeman, will perform “The Christmas Song” with the orchestra. The Dec. 9 concert will be the first time the teenager has sung with the FSO.

“I love ‘The Christmas Song’ because I believe it captures the warm imagery and aesthetic of Christmas better than any other song. I think that all of us can hear or sing the lyrics and assign very specific memories from our childhood to them and it gives us a chance to relive some of our best moments that might have gone forgotten,” Keener said.

Caryl Crane artistic director Brian Marshall praised Keener’s vocal talents.

“Gracie is a pro. She is a master vocalist (who) makes her voice fit whatever material she is working on. If she is singing rock, the rock star Gracie comes out; if it is jazz, then jazz-musician Gracie is there. What she is most brilliant at is her interpretation of material. When you watch her perform, you always feel she is singing directly to you,” Marshall said.

While Keener has sung with an orchestra before, she said the biggest challenge is there is “more pressure” than usual in her performance.

“When you’re practicing with a pre-recorded track, you can pause and restart as much as needed, but with an orchestra, there are so many intricate parts and all these human beings involved that you so badly don't want to waste their time, you want to be efficient and keep the ball rolling. However, I've sung with an orchestra before and if I could have my way, I’d never sing any other way. It’s the only method that gives a simply magical ebb and flow to a song; with the singer and the orchestra working together and building off of each other, it leaves pre-recorded tracks in the dust,” she said.

The concert, which will include a mix of light-hearted classics and moving spirituals, be at 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Sandusky State Theatre. Carl Topilow will conduct the orchestra while the 75-member Firelands Symphony Chorale is directed by Michael Shirtz.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will greet all the guests with candy canes as they enter the theater.

The audience will experience the magic of a candlelight processional as the chorale takes the stage. Their performances will include “The Bells of Christmas,” “Christmas at the Movies” “A Rockin’ Christmas” and more. The chorale will join the orchestra to perform holiday favorites including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Light Everlasting,” “Noel” and “Sleigh Ride.”

“The addition of the FSO Chorale adds such a wonderful dimension to our performances. Seventy five-plus vocalists in accompaniment with our full orchestra is magnificent and offers the audience a totally different experience,” FSO Executive Director Laurie Korobkin said.

Formed in 2015, the FSO Chorale is an auditioned choir of singers that serves as chorus-in-residence for the orchestra and its school of the arts that performs classical, contemporary and American music. The group — which currently has members ranging in age from 16 to 82 — performs with the FSO throughout the season and presents additional programming and choral festivals.

During the concert, Warren Brown will narrate “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and 22 members of the Caryl Crane competition team will perform their unique version of “Christmas on Broadway.” 

“The Caryl Crane Youth Theatre competition team is so excited to be joining the FSO gang onstage this Christmas for a Christmas Broadway medley. Directed by Gracie Keener, this exciting new medley includes music from ‘Mame,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ and many more,” Marshall said.

Since the FSO box office and school of arts now are located on the BGSU Firelands campus, Korobkin said that basically means the orchestra and Caryl Crane program “are now neighbors (so)  we thought it would be wonderful to have the Caryl Crane Youth Theatre perform with the full orchestra for our annual holiday pops concert this year.”

Caryl Crane serves more than 5,000 youth and families in the community each year through its three core programs: Theatrical training workshops, A Five-Production Theatre Series and Teen Board Outreach. 

The concert also will include a traditional carol sing-along. 

For more information, refer to www.firelandssymphony.com. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 419-621-4800 or buy them online at www.firelandssymphony.com/tickets. They also may be purchased one hour before the performance in the lobby of the Sandusky State Theatre.

“Celebrate the Season” is made possible by the generous support of the principal FSO benefactor, the Randolph J. & Estelle M. Dorn Foundation. Funding also comes from the Ohio Arts Council, Diane and Gary Ackerman, Civista Wealth Management, Barnes Wendling CPA, chorale sponsors Dale and Ellen Coffman, of RE/MAX Quality Realty, and guest artist sponsor, the Rhonda & Ken Watt Fund.

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