GEARING UP FOR HOLIDAYS, ‘FROZEN’

JMArts presents Holiday Concert series

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SILER CITY — ‘Tis the season for joy and fellowship, and JMArts is preparing to kick off the holidays with its annual seasonal concert series.

The Jordan-Matthews-based performing arts organization is having a historic season, with the group recently becoming the only high-school performing arts club in North Carolina to receive the rights to produce Disney’s “Frozen: the Broadway Musical,” based on the animated blockbuster 2013 film of the same name.

“Frozen” is the story of two sisters — Elsa and Anna — who are princesses. Elsa has magical powers to freeze objects and people, which she can’t control. After inheriting the throne, Elsa flees, which causes the kingdom to become frozen in an eternal winter, almost killing Anna. She must sacrifice and demonstrate true love to save the kingdom.

“We are planning on early December 2023,” JMArts director Rose Pate said about “Frozen” show dates. “As soon as we have finalized those dates, we’ll be putting it on the JMArts website in advance so that people can put that on their calendar.”

The award of the rights to “Frozen” was announced by Educational Theatre Association, Music Theatre International and Disney Theatrical Group, companies responsible for Frozen productions worldwide.

The competition for the rights — The United States of “Frozen”: Love Is an Open Door — offered one school in each U.S. state and territory to be the first-ever school productions of Frozen anywhere in the world. The prize package included exclusive, free rights to produce three performances, a free digital script, score and orchestrations, and a free video license.

Pate — a recently retired Jordan-Matthews teacher — said students involved in JMArts were ecstatic to hear their program had been selected to participate in the debut school productions of the stage version of the hit film.

“We asked all the students that were in theater or that were planning to do theater to come down to the auditorium [after we won],” Pate recalled. “When we mentioned Disney, there was a gasp that went up in the auditorium. Then when we got to telling them it was ‘Frozen,’ they were jumping up and down and screaming.”

Pate said she and other performing arts instructors are waiting to receive some of the necessary materials — such as music scores, scripts and more — before they begin the process of selecting dates for the highly anticipated show.

Pate said the company in charge of Frozen’s licensing, Music Theatre International, is hoping to do a promotion program for the Love is an Open Door initiative, so she hopes they will receive the materials soon.

“They want to put together a big video of students from all the different ‘Frozen’ schools singing parts of ‘Let It Go,’” Pate said, referring to the Academy and Grammy award-winning hit song which became one of the world’s top-charting singles of 2014. “And so we’re gonna be very excited to participate in that whenever we get those materials.”

Holiday showcases

While the magical land of Arendelle won’t come to Jordan-Matthews until next year, there will be a taste of Frozen in JMArts’ Holiday Chorus concert on Dec. 14.

Students will be paying homage to the tale of sisterly love with a choral arrangement of the Vuelie — a Scandinavian choral chant — from the opening of the musical.

“That will feature our vocal music students … doing some holiday-themed songs, and we’ll have at least one number by the Golden Taverns, which is our acapella group,” Pate said. “That’ll be a lot of fun.”

The annual Holiday Concert series is taking place throughout this month, with the first event — a dance team showcase — having taken place last Saturday. The Winter Dance Showcase marked a return of dance programs to Jordan-Matthews for the first time in “a very long time,” according to Pate.

Almost, Maine

On Dec. 9 and 10, JMArts theater students will be putting on a production of “Almost, Maine” — a romantic comedy play produced by many high-school theater companies in the U.S. This will be the company’s first theatrical production of the year, with the second production — “Shrek The Musical” — happening in the spring.

“In each scene, there are two characters and they’re all in different stages of their relationships, with some of the scenes directed by students,” Pate said. “We’re very much looking forward to that.”

Students were able to take the reins on a lot of the preparations for the play, Pate said. Some Spanish-speaking students have dedicated time to develop a way to provide real-time translations via headsets for families in attendance who would need it.

“We think it’s very cool that all of our families will be able to come and enjoy,” Pate said. “They [students] have taken the lead on the sets, the costumes, the lighting, and … they’re going to provide Spanish translation.”

Concerts, performances and more

On Monday, Dec. 12, the JMArts Concert Band will be hosting its annual Holiday Band Concert, which will include a few pieces played by student guitarists, as well as from the concert band itself.

“Some of our performance pieces are associated traditionally with the season while some of them are associated or hear like winter celebration,” Pate said.

The last event will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 14 — the Holiday Chorus concert. Choral students will put on a show filled with classic carols, including the annual tradition of inviting JMArts alumni to sing the Carol of the Bells with current students.

At both the band and chorus concerts, JMArts will be accepting donations for the Western Chatham Food Pantry.

“Another one of the big things we’ll be doing at the chorus concert is we’ll be drawing the prize winners for the JMArts raffle for the Arts, which is our big fall fundraiser,” Pate said.

When the holiday season wraps, the focus will be on “Shrek The Musical,” which Pate said has one of the largest casts she has seen during her time at Jordan-Matthews.

“We have a cast of 43, which is huge,” she said. “We’ll also have an actual choreographer, so we’ll have a dance ensemble and everything … all the characters will dance at some point, it will have such dedicated dance ensembles … working with that will be a whole lot of fun.”

Pate said all of these events and shows help contribute to JMArts’ overall mission to make the arts — from dance to theatre to band — accessible to all students who want to participate.

“You just open the door, you provide the opportunity, and they have been eager to step through,” Pate said. “I really credit all of our staff with providing a welcoming, accepting space for our kids, so that they can really be free to learn and collaborate, take risks and support each other. That climate is, I think, one of the big reasons that kids are drawn to the performing arts — they want to be a part of that.”

Tickets and information on JMArts can be found on its website at https://www.jmarts.org/.

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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