Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Symphony Preview: What are you doing New Year's?

Robert Ellison, Hugh Smith, and Gina Galati with the band
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In an earlier post I gave you a preview of upcoming holiday concerts at Powell Hall. At the time I thought I had included everything right up to Christmas, but it seems I missed an important event. Here's the story, along with a preview of post-Christmas action.

Friday, December 23, 7:30 p.m.: The Compton Heights Concert Band Holiday Pops Spectacular -Best known for its summer concerts in Tower Grove and Francis parks in the city, the band pulls out all the stops for this 18th annual evening of holiday favorites. On the podium will be the band's Music Director, Edward Dolbashian, who is also the Music Director of the St. Louis Civic Orchestra and Alton Symphony. The concert marks the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the founding of the band and features what's described as a "family friendly program" of holiday favorites, Christmas carols, sacred classics such as "O Holy Night", and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, done as an audience sing-along.

Soloists are tenor Hugh Smith and baritone Robert Ellison (who have performed with the band often over the years), along with Winter opera founder and noted soprano Gina Galati, along with the 100-voice East Central College Combined Choirs.

The Compton Heights Concert Band is a St. Louis institution. I don't know how I could have missed it. You won't want to do the same. Tickets are available at the St. Louis Symphony web site. The band is also offering a limited number of Gold Patron tickets that include seats in the Dress Circle Box and Grand Tier Box Seats, along with a gala post-concert reception in the lobby with Hugh Smith, Gina Galati, and Robert Ellison, catered by LoRusso's Cucina. To order Gold Patron tickets, you'll need to call 314-776-2227.

Aram Demirjian
Photo: David Bickley
Thursday and Friday, December 29 and 30, 7 p.m.: Disney in Concert - Aram Demirjian conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra along with vocalists Lisa Livesay, Whitney Claire Kaufman, Aaron Phillips, and Andrew Johnson.

Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time is one of a collection of concert packages marketed by Symphony Pops Music in which orchestras play selections from Disney films while synchronized clips are shown on screen. In some cases, clips from multiple movies like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid are combined into medleys with titles like "Villains," "Enchanted Helpers," and "They Finally Meet." There are also film-specific collections like the "Hercules Gospel Medley" and selections from The Princess and the Frog and Frozen. Symphony Pops provides the video, the soloists, the arrangements, and a scripted narrative. The local orchestra provides the players and the conductor who, in this case, is Kansas City Symphony Associate Conductor Aram Demirjian.

This will be the first SLSO appearance for Mr. Demirjian, who has been praised by the Kansas City Star for his “confident and expressive style.” His crowded 2016-2017 schedule includes conducting gigs with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Louisiana Philharmonic, and debuts in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Fresno, as well as his European debut with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. He's also the Music Director Designate of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for this one are selling fast and the SLSO web site notes that "limited view seating" is now available. A quick check of the site as I'm writing this indicates that available seats are few and far between, so if you're planning to attend, you'll want to order now.

David Robertson
Photo: Dan Dreyfus
Saturday, December 31, 7:30 p.m.: New Year's Eve Celebration - David Robertson conducts the orchestra in the annual New Year's Eve gala. "Enjoy an enchanting evening full of magical music and unforgettable surprises!" says the SLSO web site. And by "surprises" they mean "the concert program" because that is, in fact, a secret that won't be revealed until the music starts.

Still, we can make educated guesses based on previous years. Expect lots of good humor, both from the music and from Mr. Robertson, who can be a very funny guy when he gets his hands on a microphone. In 2012, for example, the orchestra did Morton Gould's "Tap Dance Concerto" and featured some good-natured sing-alongs with the audience. Dance music has, in fact, been a major part of the New Year's concerts. And waltzes are always associated with New Year's Eve in any case.

The concert is a big seller-as I'm writing this only a handful of tickets are left, mostly in the upper reaches of the balcony-but if you can't get tickets, don't despair. Last year St. Louis Public Radio began broadcasting the concert live.

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