Helping the arts council.

When my wife and I joined the Lehi City Arts Council to lead the Lehi City Chorale for its 2004 season, we had one goal: give the choir something more exciting to perform than the usual fare of a friends-and-family concert. So, we decided to move our performance from December (musicians are so busy at Christmas!) to October, and we turned our concert into a story.

A story “in concert.”

We were inspired, in part, by broadway shows like Les Misérables, that sometimes performed “in concert” (that is, music without the staging). With that format in mind, we adapted Washington Irving’s original narrative, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and I composed several original pieces for choir and small orchestra, as well as an underscore for the narration. We also mixed in a Foley artist to create accompanying sound effects. We performed it outdoors—in mid October. Patrons braved the cold weather because we featured the Headless Horseman, who chased Ichabod Crane through the night, rearing his dark horse and tossing a “flaming” pumpkin at the audience during the penultimate scene. (I also think the hot chocolate helped.)

It was something of an overnight success, and we performed our “story in concert” five more times over the next eight years. We steadily developed the story and transformed our choir concert into a two-week event, fully supported by three different city arts councils. We recruited more singers and performers, and lots of technical talent. We created social media campaigns, radio ads, YouTube videos, and even a pre-movie trailer for local theaters. Our customer experience included online ticketing, concessions, and hayrides. We also added a pre-show festival where guests could immerse themselves in the living history of late 18th-century America and learn more about early-American literature and culture. At our last performance (2012), we hosted nearly 5,000 guests across seven performances.

More stories, more concerts.

Over time, we added other special events, including a First Feast (celebrating Thanksgiving), a few Christmas specials (various holiday tales), and our own Burns’ Night (a Scottish tradition held in late January). Circumstances (like raising our four “Ballroom Brats”) compelled us to retire the show for a while, but every fall, we still get dozens of inquiries via our Facebook page: “We LOVE this show! When is it coming back?”

Someday. (Maybe after our youngest dances his way through college.)