How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
That’s the old joke, but the reality is the road to the famous New York City music venue actually goes through Chatham for Devon Hansen, the director of music at St. Andrew’s Church in Chatham.
He and soprano Lynda Charese Wood, of Southfield, Mich., are performing in late February at Carnegie Hall.
Hansen, a Windsor native, has his Masters in music from Wayne State University in Michigan. He became St. Andrew’s music director two years ago.
The church will host a sneak preview concert this Saturday, as Wood and Hansen will perform their planned Carnegie show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is a free will offering.
Saturday’s show is part of the “practice, practice, practice” element, Hansen said. But it also lets them showcase their craft locally.
“The program is going on both our tastes. We’re doing everything. I’m performing a couple of classical pieces, gospels, spirituals, and sacred stuff,” he said. “And she’s doing a wide variety herself. She’s singing in four different languages – German, French, Italian and English.”
Hansen said the opportunity to play Carnegie Hall fell into his lap.
“I kind of lucked into it. The girl I’m going with is someone I’ve worked with for years. She once said to me that, ‘If I go, I’m taking you with me,’” he said. “It’s pretty sweet. I’m really excited.”
Carnegie Hall is generally atop the list of places classical musicians dream of playing. For Hansen, he never really set his target in that manner, but he’s still thrilled nonetheless.
“I preferred to diversify and do a little bit of everything. And still I got this opportunity,” he said. “My undergrad is in piano performance. This is what they train you to do. But I don’t do much solo. I do more accompanying.”
He has worked with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pop and others.
Carnegie Hall has multiple venues. Hansen said they’re playing Weill Recital Hall, an intimate venue with about 270 seats. The Feb. 20 concert is already 80% sold out, he added.
“It’s just got everybody excited. Lots of people are coming from Michigan, Chatham and Windsor. We’ll be surrounded by our peers. That should make it less stressful,” he said.
He said the opportunity for a person living in Chatham to play Carnegie Hall and to have local folks willing to make the trip to take in the show says something.
“It shows people here do support the arts. It’s great to be playing in a place like New York City, where it’s a cultural hub, but it’s especially significant when people from here are going to travel there to see you.”
Hansen said despite the local interest, it is sad to see the arts suffering in schools.
“People don’t realize what the arts do for the academics. It helps you in other subjects, makes your mind more creative,” he said. “Yet it’s the first thing that gets cut in school. We’re going to see long-term effects.”
But perhaps churches can help fill the growing void, Hansen said, as churches have long been known for offering community outreach programs. He thinks it could be no different for music and the performing arts.
“My bucket list is to do community arts at St. Andrew’s,” he said. “Make it free for the community and have all-day Saturday events. I’d like to have free dance lessons, bring in an arts teacher, a drama teacher – whoever would donate their time or offer it at a low cost.”
Hansen loves it here in Chatham. In his time at St. Andrew’s, he’s started up the Saturdays at 7 concert series at the church, and has his sights set on developing an outreach program for the arts.
“Things have been going wonderful. We are in a great spot,” he said of Chatham. “But we need to bolster the arts.”