Transylvania University’s choirs are presenting a fast-moving tribute to the history of American musicals Friday — from the 1927 “Show Boat” to today’s hits.
Get tickets to “On Broadway (& 4th)” beginning at 7 p.m. in Carrick Theater.
“It should be a fun show,” said Brent Merritt, who’s serving as a music instructor and the director of ensembles for winter term. Featuring solos, duets, trios, quartets and a full chorus, the medley of beloved tunes is “kind of like when you go to a potluck and have a little of this, a little of that.”
Merritt, who retired after leading Scott County High School’s popular choral program for two decades, said he’s been impressed with how excited the performers are for Friday’s performance.
In fact, the buzz has brought 15 new singers into the program. Getting more students to join a choir is a forte of Merritt’s. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University, he taught at Olympia middle and high schools, starting out with just 19 singers and leaving a thriving program with eight different choirs. He also grew Franklin County High School’s program from 50 to 140 students, and the Scott County program swelled to 300 during his time there.
Some of Merritt’s students went on to attend Transylvania. “Kids that I sent to Transy absolutely loved it,” he said.
Wanting to be part of that tradition helped draw him to the university. It was a new challenge and opportunity — plus, “I just really enjoy working with choirs,” Merritt said. He also leads the singers at St. Luke Methodist Church in Lexington.
Merritt said he’d like to continue building the Transylvania choirs and increase their visibility in both the community and region. “I want the program here to reflect the excellence of the university around it.”
After Friday’s show, the singers are looking forward to performing in a retrospective concert celebrating the works of professor emeritus Larry Barnes on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. in Carrick Theater. Other events include four singers traveling to Louisville next month for the Kentucky American Choral Directors Association’s All-Collegiate Choir — and the choirs will present portions of “On Broadway” as part of a local Alzheimer’s Association event.
In addition to entertaining their audiences, student singers are building skills that carry over to other parts of their lives, Merritt said. These include being engaged in the moment and eager to help others, along with self-improvement and leadership.
“A choir is a wonderfully supportive community for people to learn and grow and express themselves,” he said.