MANKATO — In preparation for Sunday's guest appearance with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, arranger and pianist Lynn Hutchinson has spent the past four months crafting new arrangements for 20 Muppets classics.
"Songs About Rainbows: Music of Jim Henson and the Muppets" is the next edition of MSO's Symphonic Series and represents an intersection of classical musicianship and childhood nostalgia. But for Hutchinson — a Minnesota transplant now living in California who arranged a concert of similar songs but for a vastly different musical ensemble last year — the concert represents a balancing act between artistic license and audience enjoyment.
"When you take music that is already out there and has been played a jillion times, you always have to consider how much of what you're doing is ego," she said. "I do hope people hear songs in a new way — but, to a large extent, I want this to be a wonderful personal experience for a wide variety of folks."
The concert, which is billed as being suitable for children as well as "unaccompanied adults who want to relive happy memories," includes further guest performances from the Mankato Children's Chorus Concert Choir, acclaimed Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson and guest conductor Mischa Santora, the music director for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra who is filling in for MSO Conductor Ken Freed.
Hutchinson previously worked alongside the MSO for the 2012 Candy Cane concert in which she assisted guest vocalist Jen Alexander. She said she was only too glad to accept when Freed extended an invitation last summer to recast her arrangements of Muppets songs for a symphonic audience.
During a recent interview with Hutchinson, The Free Press asked her to share a few moments from the concert in which she, personally, felt inspired. The following are her responses:
■ "Typically, songs that are emotionally driven come well to me. ... There's one song called 'I'm Going to Go Back There Someday' that features (Evingson), the children's choir and a quartet. It's just beautiful."