A tap of a foot and twitch of a finger were the only indicators of the effort used by Turner Birthisel, 10, as his voice drifted and floated through First Presbyterian Church on Monday night.
The more than 800-person audience at the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Holiday Pops” concert shifted and rustled in their seats to catch a glimpse of the child whose voice filled the room with the lyrics of “The Snowman.”
Turner, of Savannah, recently returned to the area from a national tour with the Disney Theatrical Productions, where he was cast as Les for the “Newsies” musical.
“It feels kind of weird to be doing a show here,” Turner said as he nervously looked at the ceiling. “I don’t have to get on a plane and travel.”
Despite his age, those running Monday’s concert described Turner as a professional.
“We were just excited to get someone of his talent to do this song,” Mary Briggs, orchestra president and CEO, said. “It is a beautiful piece. We were lucky to find him and pleased he was finished with his tour.”
Turner’s ease behind the scenes with adults was apparent as he leaned against a wall, just moments before the show started, pondering a riddle provided by pianist Michael Braz, another nationally known musician.
While Turner appears collected on the outside, he said singing “The Snowman” piece is not exactly as easy as it may look.
“One of my voice coaches sent my mom the song while I was on tour,” Turner said. “At first I didn’t think I could do it because it is so high.”
Even before Monday’s performance, Turner expressed some concern that his warm-up didn’t meet his expectations.
Hilton Head conductor John Morris Russell, also conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, among others, had nothing but praise for Turner.
“He has a pure, beautiful sound,” Russell said. “He also has a solid work ethic.”
Turner is one example of the extensive amount of talent found in the Lowcountry, Russell said.
“There is something in the soil here — something about how the confluence of the ocean and sand meet that makes great music,” Russell said.
Monday’s concert wrapped up the 35th year for the orchestra, which holds nine different performances annually and often draws more than 1,000 people to each show.