BOUNTIFUL – Learning can be fun when you add a little rhythm to it.
For the second year, retired music professor Lewis A. Phelps will offer a series of free music lectures every Thursday from Feb. 7 to 28 at 1:30 p.m. in the South Branch Library in Bountiful. This year’s series focuses on “Music of the Stage,” and will touch on everything from Broadway to vaudeville and more.
“The topic’s so broad I can pretty much do anything,” said Phelps with a laugh. “And people really love musicals. When you mention it, people perk up their ears.”
Phelps, who taught at University of Mount Union in Ohio and now teaches at the University of Utah’s Bountiful campus, lectures on the history of his chosen music. For the Feb. 7 lecture, he plans to focus on “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” the first two musicals written by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
“Oklahoma was really the beginning of the modern American musical,” he said. “It changed everything.”
Later classes will cover work by Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Lowe, Leonard Bernstein, and a host of other composers.
“We’re starting out a little historical, but there’s so much more to include,” said Phelps.
Singers then perform the songs for the class, so students can hear the music firsthand. This year’s collection of performers includes Mary Ann Dresher, Rae Lynn Wheeler, Gary Whipple and Lauralynn Huffaker.
“We hand out information sheets with the lyrics,” said Phelps. “The ones who are familiar with the songs like to sing along with the choruses.”
Sometimes, attendees get even more involved. During last year’s series, one of the soloists fell ill the night before and couldn’t sing during the final lecture. Phelps solved the problem by explaining the situation to the students and inviting them to come up and sing the music.
“I told them we were turning this into ‘American Idol,’” he said. “And that if anyone came up, we promised to clap thunderously.”
Though the students who accepted the challenge were of varying skill levels, all of them got the promised amount of applause.
“When you have a crowd who’s with you, you can get away with almost anything,” he said.
If last year’s lectures are any indication, the crowds are definitely with Phelps. The 2012 series broke all attendance records at Golden Years Senior Center, where they were held, with 85 students attending the final lecture.
Though Phelps will welcome everyone the room has space for, he recommends that people arrive early to get good seats.
“February’s kind of a dull month,” he said. “People get excited when there’s something to perk it up.”