Come see 'Broadway Bound' this spring

Why our Christmas show was a 'Home' run

Every summer, as temperatures in the Valley soar to triple digits, Upscale Singers director Margaret Watson is feeling the warmth of the Christmas spirit.

She’s selecting the music that Scottsdale’s premier adult choir will sing in its annual Christmas concerts. It’s a laborious process – but it’s a labor of love.

“It’s always rewarding and it’s feeding something that has to be fed in me,” said Watson, who has been creating musical programs for 35 years.

“It’s a time, especially with the Christmas program, where I get to be very close to God. I know which songs God has inspired because they go immediately to my heart and soul. Every time I hear those pieces I just feel it, and I know other people feel it, too.”

They certainly did this year. “Home for the Holidays,” which featured the Upscale Singers in a new, casual look gathered around the piano, drew raves from concert-goers at Desert Hills Presbyterian Church and the group’s first appearance at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center near downtown Scottsdale.

Watson then spent the fall months putting together the music for our spring concert, “Broadway Bound,” scheduled for March 29 at Desert Mountain Golf Club, April 18 at the Kerr Center, 6110 N. Scottsdale Road, and April 25 at Holland Cabaret Theater, 34250 N. 60th St., Scottsdale.

Once Watson selects the music she thinks she’ll work, she makes a recording of the whole show and listens to it over and over. “I imagine that I’m the audience and I visualize what’s happening,” she said. She estimates that she changes 15-20% of the songs to find the right flow.

“Generally, you want to group songs in at least groups of threes, like flower arranging, and I want to take people somewhere,” she said. “So as I listen to the music, I think, ‘Where is the music taking me? Did it take me to a good place, or did it just all of a sudden leave me hanging somewhere? If I got transported to some other place, how did I get there?’

“You take people on a journey that’s comfortable for them.”

Watson’s first major experience in putting shows together was at a high school music camp in Twin Falls, Idaho. The camp was made up entirely of instrumentalists, and her job was to create and direct, in just five days, five 15-minute shows, each with a different theme.

“The directors at the camp wanted the instrumentalists to be singing and to express themselves and to get off the music,” she said. “I had to work very, very fast at figuring out who could fit into what music and what would work well.

“But that was one of my favorite things to do, showing these instrumentalists how to communicate because in general they don’t do it so much – their eyes are in the music, they’re not dealing with the audience. Now, they were looking the audience in the eye and singing, and they were very good – they were having a blast at it.”

She aims for the same result in each Upscale Singers show she constructs. She picks the songs based on the various talents of the group, just as she did at that camp.

“You can’t just pick music and then hope that there’s someone who can do it,” she said. “I would look at the kids’ personalities and then pick songs that would make them shine.”