Of Disney's 80-member Millennium Orchestra, 30 are members of the Cobb Symphony and 50 more play for the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra. All are working for free.
The combined groups have been practicing at Kennesaw State University, where the Cobb Symphony is in residence. They've had less than a month to get ready for what is billed as the most-watched television event of the season --- and the first performance of an orchestra at a Super Bowl.
The public will see them play together only the one time. "When you see the performance, you will be amazed that we have been able to pull it all together in such a short time," Byess said. "We've spent countless hours rehearsing, and we are ready."
Byess said the opening sequence is the most technically difficult he has ever conducted. The orchestra will perform a contemporary orchestral score based on world music, featuring percussive rhythm and 125 drummers. There also are pyrotechnics and theatrical lighting, but those aren't a problem for the classically trained conductor.
"I like the theatrics," Byess said. "We need a novel approach to make classical music appealing to more people in the 21st century." He said the halftime show's music has crossover appeal that will interest lovers of both classical and pop music.
Byess was chosen over several internationally known conductors after Walt Disney World Entertainment staffing specialist Greg Bell saw a Cobb Symphony performance in December. At that show, Byess conducted 261 performers, including local youth and adult choirs, a flute choir and bell ringers. Byess said Bell attended the Cobb Symphony's Christmas show looking for instrumentalists, and saw that Byess could handle a large group.
The Millennium Orchestra performers range in age from 14 to 60.
A Disney representative also checked out a November performance by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony of Atlanta before choosing that group for the show. The youth orchestra has 100 members from around metro Atlanta. Conductor and music director Marilyn Seelman said it wasn't easy selecting the 50 musicians who make up the Super Bowl orchestra's youth contingent. "It was an enormous challenge and compliment to us," Seelman said. "But I think they have made the right choice."
Her stepson Justin Sievers, a sophomore at Cherokee High School and a percussionist, will be one of the performers. He said being in the show probably won't seem real to him until the group's rehearsal this week at the Georgia Dome. He said he had his first look inside the Dome last weekend.
"My friends are a bit jealous," Sievers said. "But I'm just glad I'm getting the chance to do something like this in my lifetime."
The NFL championship game begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, and the halftime show, "Tapestry of Nations," is scheduled for 8 p.m.
© The Atlanta Journal, by Tucker McQueen