The Danville Symphony Orchestra and its special guest Saturday will perform an unusual concert for its audience.
"Toe Tapping Treasures" at 7:30 p.m. in the Danville High School auditorium, 202 E. Fairchild St., features Lane Alexander, founder and artistic director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project.
What might a tap dancer be doing with a symphony orchestra? Why, the "Tap Dance Concerto" by Morton Gould, of course.
"For the 'Tap Dance Concerto,' Alexander provides all the percussion that the piece needs," said Jeremy Swerling, conductor and music director for the Danville symphony.
Gould, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer for "Stringmusic," wrote the piece in 1952, Alexander said.
"The idea was to highlight the tap dancer just like a composer writes for any other instrument," he added. "It's rather like a snare drum concerto."
The composer didn't mess around, however, and doesn't expect the dancer to, either.
"There's a couple of places for improvisation," Alexander said from his Chicago office. "But he told me, 'Do what's written.' The piece is a conversation between the tap dancer and the orchestra. The dancer is reproducing the rhythmic line."
Alexander thinks Gould was making a statement that the tap dancer is making music just like any other instrument.
"We are drumming with our feet," he said. "I think tap dancing connects with people instantly."
The concert also features the symphony orchestra's principal percussionist Terrence Mayhue performing "Concerto for Marimba" by Eric Ewazen and a medley for jazz combo and orchestra including "Flyin' Home," "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and "I've Got Rhythm."
"I'll be playing two instruments the standard concert goer doesn't get to see and hear out front – the marimba and the vibraphone," said Mayhue, a professor of percussion at Eastern Illinois University. "It's not often you get to see someone running and jumping around behind a seven-foot keyboard."
Mayhue describes the marimba as having wooden bars made of rosewood which emit a warm sound while the vibraphone has metal bars that have a bell-like quality.
"If you are called a percussionist, you play around 200 instruments," Mayhue said. "There's no section of the orchestra that has as much fun as the percussion section."
Mayhue said the music professors joke that if a flute player gets bored with playing the flute, they still play the flute, but a percussionist can play the drums, the tympany, the marimba, the chimes, even the wood blocks and the triangle. "There's always something different to play."
Becca Lewis will also provide a dramatic introduction for the orchestra's performance of the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas.
"We're featuring three totally different sorts of soloists on the program: a marimba player, a tap dancer and a narrator to set the mood for the 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'," Swerling said. "I've never done a concert like this. The program is unconventional, no matter how you look at it, but it should be highly entertaining.
"Lest anyone worry, even though there are three soloists, the orchestra will have a huge amount of music to perform including an audience favorite: "An American in Paris."
Tickets have been selling quite well for the concert, according to Jennifer Dixson, executive director.
Tickets are available at the symphony office in the Village Mall, next to the movie theater or at the door. Seat are $23 and $22 for adults, $21 and $19 for senior citizens and $10 for students. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. For more information or to order tickets, call the office at 443-5300.