The Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra will add words, including some very familiar, to the music for its March concert.
A program of Broadway and other show and movie tunes featuring singer Shawn Weber McMahon will highlight “A Century of Song” on Saturday, March 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Sheboygan.
To purchase tickets, contact the Symphony Office at 920- 452-1985. Ticket prices are $39, $35, $30 and $15 for students.
Shawn Weber McMahon is the wife of SSO Music Director and Conductor Kevin McMahon, and while she is a familiar face to many within the SSO family, this will be her first time performing in Sheboygan.
“This is probably the most beautiful hall I’ve ever performed in,” she said of the Weill Center.
I have so many family and friends coming for the concert – more than I’ve ever had – so that’s making this really special to me. Though performing about a dozen times with Kevin and orchestras, it’s been several years since I have performed with an orchestra. So, it’s really a thrill.”
The concert will feature the SSO opening each half with an orchestral work, followed by songs from Shawn McMahon backed by the orchestra. The selections are a mix of familiar favorites, some very popular recent works and a few worthy, but less known songs.
The first half includes “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin, “Tale of the Oyster” by Cole Porter, “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Somewhere” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” “Memory” from the Broadway smash “Cats” and two hugely popular recent works, “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” and “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”
“The song possibilities are enormous. We whittled away by thinking of what the audience would recognize and enjoy, as well as choosing songs I really love to sing,” said Shawn McMahon, noting that this is her first public performances of “Over the Rainbow” and “Let It Go.” “Many of these I’ve had an opportunity to perform in other ways, some with orchestras and others on recitals.
Shawn said she’s especially drawn to the music of Gershwin and other songs from the early 20th century.
“I think the era works really well for my voice,” she said “The 1920s and 30s style resonates with me for some reason. I used to sing music from that era in college and I had a professor say ‘Who did you study with to get the style just right?’ I just feel it very naturally. The songs are very sing-able, and something people enjoy listening to.”
An elementary school teacher in Madison and the director of the children’s music for her church, Shawn said “Let It Go” from the animated feature “Frozen” is a tip of the cap to her students. She said “Singing and teaching are my passions and it is hard to separate them from each other; they both shape who I am as a person”.
“When ‘Frozen’ came out, I have never seen 5-, 6- and 7-year-old children so excited about a movie in all my years of teaching,” she said. “If I turned it on and let them sing they would stand up and do all the moves. They could see Elsa in their minds and they knew every hand gesture and would sing at the top of their lungs. It’s not a simple song, but they knew every word.”
The second half includes Shawn performing Brown’s “Stars and the Moon,” Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” “Hold On” by Lucy Simon and the program concludes with “Defying Gravity” from the wildly-popular musical “Wicked.”
“I come from a family of story tellers, mainly a lot of pastors, and I love to tell stories,” Shawn said. “I’m drawn to songs that tell stories, and ‘Stars and the Moon’ tells a story. I’m drawn to songs that you’re kind of talking to the audience through a song.”
Shawn McMahon has a distinguished career as a performer and music teacher. She worked as the only music teacher in a K-12 school district in north-central Illinois where she added many new things to the curriculum, including plays and musicals, music appreciation classes and fine arts week. She was awarded the Illinois Young Careerist award from the BPW and was honored by the Streator Chamber of Commerce for her work to bring music theatre to the high school.
She has been recognized for her teaching in Madison with the Top Notch Teacher Award from Channel 3 news in January 2014.
Shawn and Kevin took over the Maud Powell Music Festival in Illinois in 1999, an organization begun in 1995, and they continue to manage it today. She is also the director of the Calling All Kids Music Camp in Michigan each summer and performs in a summer recital series that tours three states. She has given numerous recitals and sung leading roles in several musicals and as a soloist with several orchestras throughout the Midwest.
The concert will open with the SSO performing Liszt’s symphonic poem “Les Preludes,” which is based on a poem, and fits with the concert’s concept of words and music.
“Like all the songs on the program, the Liszt is about life, love, soul, as well as the challenges of life we all experience,” Kevin McMahon said. “It is also on the program for those in our audience who most appreciate traditional music rather than pops.”
The second half opens with Jerome Kern’s “Show Boat – A Scenario for Orchestra” that tells the story of the popular musical through an arrangement for orchestra.
The concert will conclude with an encore that Kevin McMahon promises is something no one would expect.