CARBONDALE — A classic Dylan Thomas holiday story will be brought to life in two performances in the East Theater at The Varsity Center next weekend.
Kevin Purcell of Cobden will perform “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” and William Bewley will conduct a small ensemble performing a musical underscore written by Illinois composer Tim Schirmer. Schirmer will attend both performances and take part in a post-performance discussion on the art of composing for concert pieces. A small vocal ensemble rounds out this lyrical holiday tale.
The shows are co-sponsored by Baldwin Piano and Organ Center in Herrin.
“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” was written by Welshman Dylan Thomas, who is lauded as one of the greatest of the 20th-century poets. This story is one of his best-known works, and many families include a rousing reading of the poem in their holiday traditions. The story is a personal, nostalgic and often comical recollection of past Christmases, evoking memories at every turn: the warmth of a family gathering — including odd relatives, the loveliness of a mistletoe-decked home, cats by the fire and the mischief of children left to their own devices.
Schirmer, a native of East St. Louis, received a B.A. in Music Theory from St. Louis University and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Illinois. In addition to more than 20 works for the concert stage, he has composed extensively for the theater, including 10 musicals, underscores for more than 50 plays and incidental music for more than 30 productions by the Tony-nominated American Players Theatre. His film and video work include a score for the award-winning documentary “The Greatest Lakes.”
Purcell, a native of Chicago and a graduate of SIU, has been performing “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” every holiday season around the United States since 1977. He has worked professionally in Seattle and toured his other solo shows in the pacific northwest and Illinois. Recently, Purcell directed his own play, “Lincoln and Shakespeare,” in Springfield at the Old State Capitol for the Illinois Bicentennial Celebration. Purcell has also directed six shows for The Stage Company.
Bewley, a native of Hickory, North Carolina, began conducting studies at the age of 15. He is in his final year of master’s degree studies in instrumental conducting at Southern Illinois University under Edward Benyas; Bewley also is associate conductor of the SIU Symphony Orchestra.
Members of the orchestra are Tammy Kirk, flute; Emma Byrd and Christie Faling, clarinet; Cameron Taylor, euphonium; Brian Wagner, trumpet; Liz Hartman, string bass; Jimmy Beers, percussion; and Anita Hutton, piano. Included in the vocal ensemble are soprano Melissa Anne Olsen, alto Beverly Bain, tenor Lucas Morgan and bass John Lipe.
Performances are 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students and $4 for children 10 and younger.
Advance tickets are available at thevarsitycenter.eventbrite.com. Tickets also will be available at the door when doors open at 6:30 Friday and 1:30 Saturday. Advance tickets are not available at the venue until doors open.
The Varsity Bar will be open for cash sales of wine, beer, soda, nonalcoholic beverages and snacks.
The Varsity is at 418 S. Illinois Ave. For more information, go to facebook.com/varsitycenter.