British author Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is a classic landmark in fantasy literature. 

The book has never been out of print and through the 20th century was adapted countless times in plays and motion pictures. A family favorite is the 1992 crossover adaptation The Muppet Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson, sending the Muppets to Victorian England, with Michael Caine as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The score was by composer Miles Goodman, with songs by Paul Williams.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Auer Performance Hall in the Purdue University Fort Wayne Music Center, you and your family can enjoy the film on the big screen. 

This will be no ordinary screening since the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the score live with renowned conductor Caleb Young coming in from Berlin to lead the orchestra.

‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ in Concert

Fort Wayne Philharmonic
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16
PFW Auer Performance Hall
2101 Coliseum Blvd. E., Fort Wayne
$27-$86 · (260) 422-4226

Conductor cuts teeth in Fort Wayne

Young, 35, studied conducting at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. After moving around a bit, he came to Fort Wayne in 2016 to take the position of assistant conductor with the Philharmonic. His apprenticeship, as it were, followed that of Chia-Hsuan Lin, who came back to conduct the orchestra here in September at Foellinger Theatre for their performance of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Young lived in Fort Wayne five years, and through his work with the Philharmonic, he developed the skills needed to launch a career working as a guest conductor with prominent orchestras all over Europe, the U.S., and Canada, often assisting the great John Williams, who at 91 is still composing and conducting.

Young moved to Berlin in 2021, but he doesn’t stay in place very long. I had to catch up with him via email, as he’s been busy performing a series of concerts in Dublin, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, Missouri.

I asked him about his years here and his bursting onto the international orchestral music scene in such a short time.

“My first concert with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic was in October of 2016 — a family concert named Spooktacular,” he said. “Of course, I was nervous, it being my debut, and we had a funny accident on stage that didn’t help. I was rolled out in a freshly spray-painted coffin during Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The coffin was so tacky from the paint that the door wouldn’t open. Thankfully our stage director was able to pry it open at the last minute! Let’s just say that I never did anything like that again on stage!”

Fortunately for him, things went smoother after that, although there were still plenty of learning moments.

“For the majority of my time at the Phil I was conducting over 45 performances a season,” he said. “Needless to say, it was a baptism by fire! I was conducting literally everything a conductor could possibly come up against: films, family, education, ballet, pops, light-classics, run-outs, holiday shows, you name it. 

“This position unequivocally prepared me for a larger career in the music world. I owe everything that has come after to the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.”

Help along the way

While it might have been “baptism by fire,” Young did receive guidance.

“Another important aspect of the job was being mentored by Andrew Constantine, our music director,” he said. “Of course, covering Andrew during the subscription weeks was vitally important to learn the skill of putting bigger pieces together, working with soloists, and musical growth. But another part of the mentorship was guidance off the podium. A young conductor makes a lot of mistakes, and there’s major land mines one can step on, which I did. But I always felt supported by Andrew, and I’m deeply grateful for that. 

“I can thank our general manager Jim Mancuso for putting me in a position to work with film. My first season, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was programmed. Of course, this was a massive challenge for me! But fortunately I have colleagues who helped me along the way, offering their tips and tricks, and it’s been a staple of my work ever since.”

And his work with the classic 1982 Steven Spielberg continues to come in handy.

“I’m currently in Los Angeles right now working on E.T. with the L.A. Philharmonic! So it’s come full circle,” he said.

Busy schedule

Young relocated overseas for the chance to be mentored by the great conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who is based in Helsinki, Finland. 

“Jukka-Pekka offered me a position in the Fiskars Summer Festival, but I wasn’t able to travel during the pandemic,” Young said. “This was in the fall of ’20. He offered to chat with me over Zoom, which we ended up doing on a regular basis for a few months. I was then able to travel to Finland for the next summer’s festival, and that really accelerated our relationship and my ambition of moving to Europe.

“Over the next two years I would travel with Jukka-Pekka throughout Europe and the U.S., assisting him. This has been a massive help in my next step professionally. 

“My work with John Williams first started in L.A. when I was asked to assist him personally at his annual concert at the Hollywood Bowl. This was enabled because of my film work, specifically with his music, in Fort Wayne. Little did I know that I was go on to continue to serve as his assistant in Europe with both the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. Working with John has been the greatest privilege of my musical life.”

In Germany, he’s found a home where the arts flourish.

“I moved to Berlin because of the value that city puts on music,” he said. “With six major orchestras and three opera houses, there’s not another city like it. Plus, Berlin is a very expat-friendly city, and I needed to be centrally located in Europe, with my travels.”

Now established on both sides of the Atlantic, his schedule has become a bit hectic.

“The past five years have been completely a whirlwind,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some major steps forward in the past few seasons, working with major orchestras on both sides of the pond.

Though he’s performed in major cities across the globe, the Summit City continues to be a favorite of his.

“Fort Wayne will always be in my heart,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to make lifelong friends, both in the orchestra and in our wonderful city. 

“I’ve never felt more at home than when I’m in the Fort. Whether I’m having a cappuccino in Fortezza before a rehearsal, enjoying a good cigar at Rudy’s on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or paddling at Chain O’ Lakes (State Park in Albion), I love everything this city has. It’s impossible to fully express my gratitude for everything this city has offered to me. Thank you, everyone.”