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Concert honors Samantha, Kathy Netherland

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By Randy Patrick

Samantha Netherland had eclectic tastes in music, so it was a diverse arrangement that Bardstown High School’s chorus chose to honor her and her mother, Kathy Netherland, at an outdoor concert Saturday night.

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The quiet 16-year-old loved the melodic “Frostiana,” a seven-movement suite composed by Randall Thompson for some poems of Robert Frost. But she also liked to rock out to the British metal band, Def Leppard — something she shared with her mom, her sister, Holly, and her late father, Robert.

Landon Helton, an electric guitarist who played the Def Leppard set, admitted it was a “weird combination,” but it was what Samantha liked, and “it was nice that we could show our appreciation for her.”

The public concert had special meaning for the chorus, said Caitlin Witte, “Because we were all very close to Samantha and loved her very much.”

Erica Miles said Samantha was shy when they first sang together in the Tiger Chorale, but she was becoming a more confident and happier person.

The sophomore was a good student who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, and had recently been chosen for the prestigious Gatton Academy, which made her mother, a special education teacher at Bardstown Elementary School, proud.

The girl’s promising future was stolen from her, however, when she and Kathy Netherland were murdered at their home at 5120 Springfield Road in late April.

The horrific crime, which shocked a community still reeling from the killing of a police officer less than a year before, remains unsolved.

Jeffrey Stone, the city schools chorus director, said the concert was a way to honor two special people and help the students and townspeople heal.

“I believe that in times of tragedy, we should come together,” he said, “and support everyone.”

This was Stone’s last public performance before he leaves Bardstown to study for a doctorate at North Dakota State University this fall.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said, not only because of the loss of Samantha, but “it’s also my last time with these kids.”

Erica Miles, another chorus member, said the concert was different than anything the students had done before, and a little outside their “comfort zone.”

“It’s not for us anymore,” Miles said, “but to recognize them and to celebrate their lives.”

The concert started off upbeat with “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” followed by three other Def Leppard songs, “Rock of Ages,” “Promises” and “Photograph.”

Three grinning electric guitarists and a drummer performed with the chorus.

The mood changed to quiet reflection as Lindsey McGruder and Matthew Nalley read a poem for Samantha, “The Lily in A7,” composed by her second-period English class. It was followed by the poetic “Frostiana: Seven Country Songs.”

As a remembrance of Kathy, the audience joined in singing “You Raise Me Up,” a familiar song written by Brendan Graham for Secret Garden and performed as a worship song in contemporary churches.

The concert ended with a reprise of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

Afterward, members of the Netherland family sold memorial bracelets to raise money for a scholarship for a Bardstown High student in honor of Samantha and Kathy.

“I thought it was wonderful,” said Bonnie Thomas, grandmother of Landon, the guitarist.

“It’s really touched everybody, this tragedy,” she said.

“I just hope they soon find out who did this,” so that the family can have some closure, she added.

Pat Settles, who owns a music store and is a substitute teacher, said the concert was “really good” — and good for the community’s recovery. He knew some of the kids and “enjoyed seeing them again.”

Stone said afterward the response from the audience “was overwhelming.”

“To see so many in the community, some who perhaps did not know the Netherlands, attend the concert delighted our hearts and uplifted our spirits,” he said. “We felt that the audience could feel the sense of celebration we wished to bring in our performance and I believe both Samantha and Kathy would have thoroughly enjoyed our presentation on their behalf.”

It was, he said, “a beautiful concert and celebration.”

See more photos from the concert in this slideshow.