Hosted by internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and taped at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, nearly 700 student musicians join the Belmont School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children’s Choir later this month for the taping of Christmas at Belmont. Produced by Nashville Public Television (NPT), the annual production of traditional carols, classical masterworks, world music and light-hearted seasonal favorites will premiere on NPT on Thurs., Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Central followed by the PBS premiere on December 20 at 9 p.m. Central, with an encore broadcast Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. Central. This is the 11th consecutive year Christmas at Belmont has been seen by a national audience on PBS. Previous hosts have included Brenda Lee, Josh Turner, Trisha Yearwood and Laura Bell Bundy.
This year’s edition of Christmas at Belmont features the University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble, as well as mass choir. The performance includes both classic sacred holiday music such as “The First Noel” and “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” as well as festive seasonal songs such as “Carol of the Bells” and “We Need a Little Christmas,” to name a few.
Graves has already established a strong rapport with Belmont students, sharing her story with students in a convocation event in February and performing with a number of student ensembles that week in a “Celebration of Unity” concert held in Belmont’s McAfee Concert Hall. Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st Century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “if the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”
A native of Washington, DC, Graves appears continually on the stages of leading theaters in North America, Europe and Asia. She has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Washington Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera, and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence. In 1997, PBS released a video and audio recording titled Denyce Graves: A Cathedral Christmas, featuring Graves in a program of Christmas music from Washington’s National Cathedral.
“‘Christmas at Belmont’ is an amazing opportunity to showcase Belmont University’s world-class School of Music in front of a national audience,” said Belmont University President Bob Fisher. “We’re incredibly grateful that this partnership with NPT puts our talented students and faculty in living rooms across the country. Having Denyce Graves serve as our host this year takes anticipation for ‘Christmas at Belmont’ to a new level. Her performance on campus last year was outstanding, and she provides a perfect role model of talent, commitment and grace for our students to observe and emulate.”
The performance and taping of “Christmas at Belmont” returns for the fourth time to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, one of the few venues in the world featuring natural lighting and state-of-the-art acoustics, including motorized acoustic drapes and an acoustical isolation joint that encircles the entire concert hall and prevents sound waves traveling into or out of the hall.
“We’re always thrilled to bring Nashville to the Nation, and the ‘Christmas at Belmont’ production is one of the finest examples of this,” said Beth Curley, president and CEO of NPT, which has won 42 Midsouth Emmy® awards since 2001. “Belmont’s School of Music is world class, exemplary of the city’s dedication to music and performance in all of its forms and genres. ‘Christmas at Belmont’ is always magnificent, and a highlight of PBS’ holiday programming.”
“Christmas at Belmont” is underwritten by The Beaman Family Foundation and The Jack C. Massey Foundation.