Livingstone students prepare for Christmas performance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This time of the year most college students are thinking about one thing: being out of school for the holidays.
But at Livingstone College, several students in the Music and Theater Department have been busy rehearsing and preparing for “Miracle on Monroe Street,” a Christmas Extravaganza being held at 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 in Varick Auditorium.
Seasoned professionals like Dr. DaVaughn L. Miller, chairman of the music and theater department, Sidney C. Sessoms, Jr., director of bands, Teresa Moore-Mitchell, assistant professor of voice and Michael D. Connor, theater arts instructor, have a major role in the production. But Livingstone students are also lending a hand to ensure the event is a hit.
“We’ve been rehearsing for probably the past two or three weeks, getting everything together,” said Kirstie Bates, a senior music and theater major from Fort Washington, Md. “We even had rehearsal the night before school let out for Thanksgiving.”
Bates sings soprano in the Gospel Choir, under the direction of Owen Forbes, and plays the contrabass clarinet in the Concert Band. And as if that isn’t enough, she’s also working behind the scenes as a crew coordinator to help pull off “Miracle on Monroe Street.”
“As crew coordinators we have different times when we’re needed, whether it’s to tell somebody when to go or come off stage, to carry a prop, to ensure everybody’s costumes are right, to make sure everyone’s in the right position or to fill in as dancers,” Bates said. “I’m working behind the scenes because I like being involved in performing, and hopefully I can obtain a job similar to this when I get my degree from Livingstone.”
Though she loves the behind-the-scenes work, Bates acknowledges it’s much more detailed than she anticipated.
“I wasn’t aware of all of the things that were going to be involved,” she said. “There are a lot of hectic things that we have to go through. I’m learning as I go and also taking the things I’ve learned in Mr. Connor’s class and applying them to this performance.”
When asked whether she’s having fun, Bates didn’t hesitate to answer. “I don’t think it’s going to be fun until the day of the performance. Right now it’s kind of stressful.”
As pros who’ve been performing for years, Miller, Sessoms, Moore-Mitchell and Connor know all about stress. They’re confident, however, that when the curtain goes up on Dec. 8 the public will benefit from all of the hard work — and stress — the students have endured.
“We’ve asked a lot of our students these past few weeks, and they’ve worked very hard to deliver,” Miller said. “They’re aware of the importance of this Christmas concert, and so they’ve shown up on time for practice to try to ensure they do their parts to make it one for the ages, something the citizens of Salisbury, Rowan County and others will talk about well into the New Year.”
Billed “Miracle on Monroe Street,” Livingstone’s Christmas Concert will feature a live nativity scene, members of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and opera singer Moore-Mitchell. Before the concert, the school’s faculty and staff will provide a Christmas dinner and toys for about 25 families, and two people will be awarded scholarships to attend Livingstone’s one-year culinary arts certificate program. After the concert, Livingstone will keep with tradition by holding a special tree lighting ceremony.
But make no mistake about it: The Christmas Concert is the main attraction at Livingstone College on Dec. 8. The show will feature “Ballad of the Brown Kings,” which was composed by Margaret Bonds with text by Langston Hughes. According to Miller, Sessoms has taken some liberties with the music and simply outdone himself this year — a notion Sessoms, a published composer, modestly downplays.
“It actually was fun taking a piano score and trying to stretch it into something orchestral,” Sessoms said. “I believe the colors and textures of the added orchestra version will give the composition more life.”
Sessoms said he thinks the Christmas Concert will be inspiring to those in attendance and set the perfect tone for the holiday season. He’s particularly excited, he said, for Livingstone students to get a chance to perform with members of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra.
“They’ll be exposed to people with a wealth of experience in the music industry, and the concert will give them a glimpse into the world of professional musicians,” he said. “We appreciate David Hagy and the members of the Salisbury Symphony for helping us make this our best Christmas concert yet, and I just hope the public will come out in droves to witness what we’ve choreographed.”
So does Bates, who said although she’s having to work extra hard these days she can’t wait until show time.
“The public should definitely attend this concert,” Bates said. “I know President Jenkins has high expectations for it and he and other senior administrators are putting a lot of resources into it. I hope a lot of students come out to see the concert, and not just students from Livingstone but students from other colleges and high schools as well.
“From watching the actors learn their lines, from looking at the costumes, from knowing we’re having a live nativity scene and from what I’ve heard as the different musicians rehearse, I think it’s going to be a true extravaganza,” Bates continued. “I really think we’re going to pull it off, and anyone who doesn’t come to the concert will miss out on a chance to witness something very special at Livingstone College.”