It's the most wonderful time of the year, indeed.
The Little Rock Wind Symphony (LRWS) will present its holiday concert titled "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on Dec. 7. The magic will happen at Second Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m.
Guest artists will include The Little Rock Parkview Arts Magnet High School Madrigals and Lab Singers. The groups will team up with the band to play holiday favorites such as "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and "We Need a Little Christmas." Eleven-year-old Calvin Clardy will lead the orchestra on "Sleigh Ride," while operatic soprano Mary Winston Smith will present the annual performance of "O Holy Night."
The night is also slated to include a Stocking-Stuffer Silent Auction before the concert. The auction opens at 6:30 p.m. and bidding will conclude at the end of the concert intermission.
Tickets are available online and at the door. They are $15 for adults, $12 for adults 65 and over and free for students. For more information, head to the LRWS website.
In anticipation of the holiday celebration, we chatted with soprano soloist and North Little Rock native Mary Winston Smith about her impressive career and what she's looking forward to with the upcoming concert.
When did you begin singing?
MWS: I have always sung, but I started singing in elementary school and church. We had a traveling music teacher and I couldn’t wait until she came each month.
How did you discover your talent for singing?
MWS: Seeing the positive response from adults and how they would tell me how they loved my voice.
What have been some of your most memorable singing experiences so far?
MWS: Singing my first major role at the age of 18 as Suzuki in the Arkansas Opera Theatre Inaugural Performance of "Madame Butterfly." This is how I caught the opera bug. Singing the soprano solo in Mendelssohn’s "Elijah" at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Sherill Milnes; singing the role of Serena in "Porgy and Bess" at the Bregenz Music Festival in Austria.
Tell me about your work now as a teacher. What do you enjoy the most about teaching younger generations to hone their skills?
MWS: I teach privately at my home and also with Adventures in the Arts, a music academy that is part of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. I love working with young singers as they start to discover their voices and help them lay the foundation of a good vocal technique.
Most of the students I work with are in high school and getting ready to go to college. I love when they came back to a lesson and I hear the improvement because they went home and worked on it. The light bulb comes on.
I love it when they can take what they have learned in their lessons and retain it in a performance. I love the friendship and respect that develops. I love it when they are accepted into the music school of their choice and go on to graduate school and who knows — to pursue a singing career.
What was it like to perform at Carnegie Hall?
MWS: Humbling and so exciting. What amazing acoustics. That experience is etched in my memory forever. I sang the Soprano Solo in Mendelssohn’s "Elijah" and Sherill Milnes made his conducting debut.
Since moving back to Arkansas, what is different or better about the arts and culture scene now compared to when you moved away?
MWS: There is more of it, which is great. There are more performing groups and venues, which gives more opportunities for young performers to hone their craft. There are music societies that performers and those that love the arts can be a part of, such as The Music Coterie and National Society of Arts and Letters. Both groups are part of National Arts Organizations and have local and national competitions that beginners and young professionals can compete for awards, prizes and concerts.
What do you like about working with the Little Rock Wind Symphony?
MWS: This is my first time singing with the LRWS and I am honored and excited to have this opportunity.
When you’re not singing or teaching, what do you like to do with your spare time?
MWS: Spending time with my friends who help me grow closer to God.