As guest artist for the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Jonathan Beyer will join Dan Borné, the Voice of Death Valley, in running the musical football for the holidays at the orchestra’s annual “Home for the Holidays” concert.
The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, in the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts. It is the third in the orchestra’s 2014-15 Investar Bank Masterworks series.
Two encore concerts will follow at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, and Beyer will be joined by musical teammates in the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra Chorus at all three.
“It’s going to be great,” Beyer says, speaking from New York. “I performed with the Baton Rouge Symphony in 2008. I replaced another baritone in the symphony’s performance of ‘Carmina Burana.’ My father came down from Chicago for the concert, and I remember visiting a Muppets exhibit at a museum there. This time, I’ll have more time to see the city.”
But dad won’t be attending this concert, because Beyer will be performing a holiday concert in Chicago after leaving Baton Rouge.
Just call it his version of “home for the holidays,” because he grew up in a suburb of the Windy City. But Baton Rouge is foremost on his mind at the moment, the concerts, the warmer climate and the food.
“Oh, I loved the food when I visited in 2008, and I plan to eat a lot of it this time,” Beyer says, laughing. “But I’m also looking forward to a more tempered climate after performing in Alaska.”
Earlier this year, Beyer was performing in Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” in Anchorage, which was hit by a blizzard. Snow encased the city, and authorities wouldn’t allow residents to leave for safety reasons. Which meant not many people were planning a night out at the opera.
“The landscape was beautiful, but I was ready to leave the cold weather and the dark days,” Beyer says. “So, I’m looking forward to performing holiday music, and audiences should know that the symphony programs on Thursday and Sunday are different.”
The orchestra will perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols,” along with a mix of popular songs and lesser known carols on Thursday night. The Sunday programs will be filled with popular holiday music.
“So, if you attend performances on Thursday and Sunday, you’ll have a chance to hear two different concerts,” Beyer says. “I’ve performed the Vaughan Williams ‘Fantasia’ before, but it’s different each time, because I’m performing it with a different conductor.”
Beyer is no stranger to the Baton Rouge Symphony’s musical director and conductor Timothy Muffitt. The baritone first worked with the conductor at a summer music institute in 2003.
Beyer’s 33 now, and has since performed with operas and orchestras throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Opera de Montreal.
Beyer entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelpia with aspirations of becoming a composer. That changed when he ended up singing in a chorus. His professors heard him and urged him to change course.
“I wanted to be the next John Williams composing movie scores,” Beyer says. “But I wasn’t a good composer.”
“It wasn’t a great loss to the musical world,” Beyer continues. “But composing did help me in a lot of ways as a musician. It gave me a great appreciation for music theory, which gives me better understanding of the music.”
Music such as that in composer John Adams’ modern opera, “Nixon in China.” Beyer was the understudy for production of this show, and he dreams of one day singing in the lead role.
“The music is great, and I find the story relevant to today,” he says. “As for traditional operas, I’d also like to perform the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin.’ ”