Sweet sounds

TUPELO – Smiles of recognition spread across young faces as a keyboardist played the opening notes from the theme to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

That shouldn’t be surprising. Before the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra performed the work by John Williams, Conductor Steven Byess asked how many of the students at Friday’s concert had read the “Harry Potter” books and seen the movies.

Halle Roberts, 9, of Mooreville Elementary School, was among many to shoot her arm into the air at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium. But the “Harry Potter” music wasn’t her favorite piece.

“I liked it when they were doing the agent thing,” she said, referring to the theme music from “Mission Impossible.”

More than 2,500 students from schools throughout Northeast Mississippi heard familiar and new music during a pair of free concerts.

Called “The Beat in Music,” the program included a dash of Scott Joplin’s ragtime, a “Hoedown” from Aaron Copland and a sampling of “Mambo” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

The kids, who were from third to sixth grade, were invited to provide vocals for “Mambo.” They earned enthusiastic thumbs up from Byess each time they shouted to the music.

Members of the Saltillo Elementary Concert Choir did the rest of the students one better. They performed the “Star Spangled Banner” with the orchestra. The group has practiced the song “since school started in August,” said Lexi Brazeal, 11.

Meah Smith, 11, said it was a thrill to see the audience.

“It was pretty fun, seeing all those people out there,” she said. “It’s fun singing in the choir with all of us together.”

Repeat customer
TSO provided many of the students with their first chance to hear a live orchestra.

But this was Bannan Beasley’s second time. The 11-year-old also went to last year’s free TSO concert with fellow students from Aberdeen Middle School.

This year, he kept time on his legs as the orchestra played.

“I really want to learn an instrument,” he said after the show. “I want to learn the flute.”

If Beasley takes up an instrument, he’ll be lucky to get a teacher like Gosia Leska, TSO’s concertmaster for Friday’s concert. She teaches young violinists, and enjoys watching as they discover what they can do.

“When they first can play, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle,’ they get so excited,” Leska said. “To see them excited about music is a real treat.”

The concerts are designed to introduce students to classical music, and maybe win over a few fans. If a standing ovation is any measure, those goals were achieved.

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

M. Scott Morris/Daily Journal