By Tanner Kent
---- — 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."
■ "I'm not spoiling too much by saying that 'Rainbow Connection' is the finale to the show. It's the representative piece of this era and it's been done so many times. I wanted to make it harmonically more interesting and I re-wrote the melody. I'm hoping to give the song some perspective of being aged a bit."
■ "'Pinball Number Count' is a song I really wanted on the program. But, as an arranger, you find that some things are a little too square, like a mom trying to look hot in tight jeans. So, I gave this song over entirely to the children's choir with a brass quintet and rhythm section for this New Orleans brass feel."
For more about Hutchinson, her process and her voluminous amount of research into the music of the Muppets, visit www.mankatosymphony.com/making-songs-about-rainbows-blog.
If You Go What "Songs About Rainbows: Music of Jim Henson and the Muppets" When 3 p.m. Sunday Where Mankato West High School auditorium Tickets $15-$25; available through www.mankatosymphony.com, at the Twin Rivers Council for the Arts box office (call 507-387-1008) and at the door.