By: Julienne “Melodee” Kung Park, Contributing Writer
People usually cringe at the thought of an 18-hour workday, but I had one of those on last Monday, and I would not mind doing it again. That was the day of the Christmas concert with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, and I was ecstatic to be a part of the orchestra that performed with them in the Fox Theater. Music is a big part of my life, and I teach and perform most weekends, but I also have a full-time job, which is another love of my life! That morning, I went into work early, and I wanted to finish up as much of a project as I could. Fortunately, I had discussed this day with my superiors in advance, and they were supportive in the performance.
The schedule for that day was for the orchestra to meet at the Fox Theater in Atlanta at 2 PM, rehearse, take a couple of hours for dinner, and then perform the show. I had told several of my musician friends about this concert when I first found out that there were still a few spots available in the orchestra, and one of my friends carpooled downtown with me. We reserved plenty of time for traveling since we anticipated traffic, time to park, and the time to walk to the venue and find our place. The musicians were told that our parking would be validated if we parked in a designated garage, but I have a student who lives near the Fox Theater and invited me to park there instead. It ended up being very convenient. Aside from parking information, the musicians received instructions to enter the Fox Theater from the Stage Door, which was also unfamiliar to me. I had previously been the place for tours and shows, but this was my first time performing there. Luckily, my friend and I spotted other musicians walking near the building, and we did not have any trouble getting settled before the rehearsal.
Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith traveled with many people on their tour, including a band, several back-up singers, their sound crew, and David Hamilton, who arranged many of the pieces that the orchestra played. David Hamilton also performed on the piano during the show, and he was the orchestra’s guest conductor for the night. I always look forward to meeting conductors because they can make a significant difference in the orchestral experience. I have played in orchestras for over 20 years, in violin, viola, and cello sections, and I have played under the direction of scores of conductors. They can be scary, rude, and petulant, but they can also be pleasant and conducive to the rehearsal. Thankfully, our conductor’s character for the evening was more like the latter, and he directed our rehearsal with great progress and professionalism.
When it was show time, the place was packed, and I heard that the limited seats (with partially obstructed views) had also been sold. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were both excellent as far as I could tell from my seat in the second desk of the cello section. I know that they shared stories with the audience, but those words were lost to me since it was difficult to hear spoken words on stage. My cello had a mic, but unlike members of the band, I did not have earpieces to the sound system. This is not unusual, so I was not expecting to have the same kind of perspective on the performance as audience members in the house. I did have several friends who attended the show and shared the highest compliments. As a musician in the orchestra, I had a blast performing alongside such talented artists. I was touched to find out that a young teenager who attended the show came out of it wanting to be a musician. The gift of sharing music can be inexplicable, and I am excited to begin private lessons with this young lady in the coming year. The “Christmas with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith concert” was an amazing gift for me this holiday season. My day did not end until midnight, but it was an invigorating day that I could live over again.
There are so many memories from this day that I wish I could share, but there is time and more space for that later. In the meantime, feel free to email me with any thoughts or questions: JulienneMusic@gmail.com