Four Townsend School of Music faculty members and three music students were selected to perform in the orchestra that accompanied Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Josh Groban during his special performance on the “Oprah’s Favorite Things 2007” episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” that was taped in Macon on Saturday, Nov. 17. Groban performed selections from his new Christmas album “NOEL” with the Atlanta Boys Choir, the Community Choir of Atlanta and an orchestra comprised of Macon musicians.
Mercer faculty and students who performed with the orchestra were Monty Cole, associate professor of music and director of jazz studies, clarinet; Brian Hodges, assistant professor of music, cello; David Johnson, assistant professor of music, violin; Jo Nardolillo, assistant professor of music, violin; senior Kelley Dixon, flute, of Dawson; McDuffie Center junior Megan Ganyard, violin, of Gainesville, and senior Joanna Pepple, violin, of Canton.
Cole described the process leading up to the performance as “extremely secretive.” The faculty and students were contacted by a local talent contractor.
“We were told nothing before the event about whom we were playing for, though some guessed correctly,” he said. “We met on Saturday morning in the parking lot of the new Hilton Garden Inn on campus. Macon trolleys picked us up at 9 a.m. and took us downtown to the City Auditorium. Then we were told what was happening: we were playing for Josh Groban as part of an orchestra. His new Christmas CD had several songs with an orchestra in the background, and in order to reproduce the sound of his CD he brought in our orchestra, a boys choir from Atlanta and a gospel choir from Atlanta.”
Cole said that the group spent the entire day either in the rehearsal rooms or on the set. “Oprah's crew took very good care of us, and Oprah appeared throughout the day, but only in motion to a makeup room or other destination. On the show she thanked all of the musicians. We recorded some of the Josh Groban songs twice with the audience, trying to recapture their initial enthusiasm for the cameras.” he said.
The “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode aired locally on 13WMAZ on Tuesday, Nov. 20, and was re-broadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 12. To see Josh Groban’s performances of “Silent Night” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” from the show, click here to visit Oprah.com and select the “Holiday Harmony” link.