Do you remember sneaking downstairs to see what might be under the Christmas tree? Here’s a peek at what the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has for you to anticipate (including some concerts with visits from “the man with the bag”). Every one of these events is a cherished holiday tradition, not only for the audiences but also for the musicians, several of whom spoke with Buffalo Rising.
Sat Dec 3, 7:00 pm and Sun Dec 4, 1:00 pm at Shea’s
BPO Violinist Diana Sachs told Buffalo Rising:
I am playing Nutcracker this year for the first time in about 20 years. They usually have Nutcracker on the weekend right after Thanksgiving and I’ve always had that weekend off. This year it’s been delayed by a week so I’m really looking forward to playing it. It’s some of my favorite music and it’s also fun to sneak a peek at the dancers!
BPO English Hornist and Oboist Anna Mattix told Buffalo Rising:
Even though I have played Nutcracker now hundreds of times there is always something magical about it. The beautiful scenery, the incredible setting, the anticipation in the audience, many for whom this is their first live performance. I can’t see the dancers except when they come to the very front of the stage. I just get a whirl of skirt or lifted leg but even just those glimpses are transporting. There is nothing like it, a collective magical experience.
Neglia Ballet’s THE NUTCRACKER returns to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre for its 13th presentation of the beloved holiday tradition of live ballet, with music performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, all danced on the historic Shea’s Buffalo stage, 646 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14202 (the same stage that hosts so many Broadway musicals).
BPO Cellist Robbie Hausmann told Buffalo Rising:
My 2 daughters were soldiers, mice, party teens, and cupcakes in The Nutcracker! Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores are my favorite of his compositions. I admit to trying to catch glimpses of my daughters on stage which can be challenging from the pit.
Enjoy performances on Saturday, December 3 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 4 at 1:00 pm. Tickets range from $26 to $85 and are available online at Sheas.org or at Shea’s Box Office (716) 847-0850.
BPO Harpist Madeline Olson told Buffalo Rising:
For me The Nutcracker isn’t the typical pit musician experience- the harp is actually situated in the audience directly next to the pit due to space considerations. This is a lot of fun every year, as the audience gets a much more up close and personal view of my role in the orchestra than usual (and the harp has a lot to do in the Nutcracker!). At intermission, there are always audience members who come to see the harp, and I love being able to show them a little bit about how the instrument works. It’s a rare experience to encounter a harp outside of the classical music world, and it’s always a joy to be able to introduce the instrument to people.
THE STORY: On Christmas Eve, Clara (Marie in this production) is given a wooden nutcracker doll and as she falls asleep dreams that it has become a soldier who, after a battle with Mouse King, transforms into a handsome Prince/Cavalier and she becomes a beautiful princess. (That scene, with The Buffalo Girls Chorus singing off stage, is always my favorite music.)
Watch the Neglia Ballet’s “Battle Scene” from THE NUTCRACKER…
In Act II, Clara and her prince arrive at the Land of the Sweets, greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy, and are entertained by several dance performances including the Waltz of the Flowers. At the end of the ballet, Marie awakens with her nutcracker doll as she takes in the magic of Christmas.
BPO Percussionist Dinesh Joseph echoed Madeline Olson’s thoughts:
As a percussionist, I’m lucky to be situated just above the pit on the stage left (audience’s right) side during the Nutcracker, since the Sheas pit is too small to accommodate our setup. Being able to watch the dancers when we’re not playing is super fun and inspiring. Also- Tchaikovsky’s use of percussion is extraordinary. His inventive writing for tambourine, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, castanets and snare drum play an integral role in telling the story and keeps us on our toes musically. He truly elevated our art form with this score- setting the bar high for future Russian giants like Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.
This is a professional production, featuring Colorado Ballet’s Dana Benton and Jonnathan Ramirez who will perform the Grand Pas de Deux as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier. Camila Rodrigues, originally from Brazil, will dance as Young Marie. In addition to professional dancers, 80 youth roles will be performed by Neglia Ballet students and local children hailing from twenty WNY dance schools. It’s a pretty high-class production, as Montreal-based American conductor Daniel Black will guest conduct the BPO’s orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s cherished score.
Sunday December 4, 7:30 pm at OLV Basilica
The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra return with their annual holiday presentation of Handel’s Messiah at Our Lady of Victory Basilica 767 Ridge Road Lackawanna, NY 14218.
Once again, it features Adam Luebke, music director, The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and this year the four soloists are: Lucia Flowers, soprano; Kyrsten Chambers Jones, mezzo-soprano; Pablo Bustos, tenor; and Valerian Ruminski, bass.
Audience favorite airs include:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (soprano)
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (mezzo-soprano)
Ev’ry valley shall be exalted (tenor)
The trumpet shall sound (bass)
And many choral numbers including, of course, The Hallelujah Chorus!
Celtic Woman: A Christmas Symphony
Thursday December 8, 7:30 pm at Kleinhans
Celebrate Ireland’s rich musical and cultural heritage through the Grammy-nominated voices and instrumental virtuosity of four talented musicians, performing an array of Celtic tunes, contemporary works, and classic holiday favorites in an unforgettable evening with your BPO conducted by Lloyd Butler. The BPO’s shimmering strings and magnificent brass fanfares are fused with the Irish harp, the bagpipes, and the beat of the bodhrán drum.
Celtic Woman has a wealth of seasonal music including Silent Night and the ancient Gaelic carol Dia do Bheatha from their holiday album, The Magic of Christmas along with Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, and Deck the Halls. Kleinhans Music Hall is at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a traffic circle. Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000. Full-service bar in the lobby or across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room. Masks are optional.
JoAnn’s Classical Christmas
Friday, December 9, 10:30 am and Saturday, December 10, at 7:30 pm at Kleinhans Music Hall
An annual holiday favorite, Maestro JoAnn Falletta celebrates the season with centuries of classical treasures. Principal harpist Madeline Olson adds a sparkle of delicate magic with François-Adrien Boieldieu’s Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus returns to lend their festive voices to seasonal favorites and the traditional holiday sing-along. They are joined by Erica Gabriel, soprano, and John Tiranno, tenor.
The concert starts with Jerry Herman’s “We Need A Little Christmas” (from MAME) continuing all the way to Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.” The Friday morning event will have the traditional free donuts and hot beverages.
BPO Double Bassist Edmond Gnekow told Buffalo Rising:
For me, it’s not the holidays without Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.” My high school orchestra played it every year, and every year our director Mr. Cunningham would give a short speech during first rehearsal about why it was the best holiday arrangement ever. A friend from high school recently sent me a picture of his daughter playing it at her school with the caption “Pouring one out for Mr. C”; my stepkids’ school orchestra plays it, and of course the BPO plays it (this year during the Classical Christmas concerts December 9 & 10), and I will admit that sometimes while in the middle of playing it, I get embarrassingly meditative about how waves of musicians rise and fall, but music itself stays untouched by time…. and then Jingle Bells snaps me out of it, and as Anderson transforms Jingle Bells into the foundation supporting O Come All Ye Faithful, I feel absurdly happy.
It’s a full 2-hour concert with intermission including a suite of music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.
BPO Flutist and Piccolo player Natalie Debikey Scanio told Buffalo Rising:
When my kids were younger, we used to listen to the Nutcracker on repeat all year long. The music is just so amazing, that I never tire of it, and it’s also a lot of fun to play.
Kleinhans Music Hall is at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201. For tickets visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000.
BPO Holiday Music Under the Dome
Saturday, December 10, 1:00 pm at the M&T Bank, Fountain Plaza
Once again, the BPO will be providing the community an opportunity to get up close to the world-class musicians of the orchestra in an annual favorite concert.
BPO Associate Principal Bassist Brett Shurtliffe told Buffalo Rising:
The M&T Gold Dome concert brings the orchestra up close and personal with the audience; so close that they can see every detail of the performance, but also close enough that we get to see the enjoyment on the faces of our audience as we play!
And speaking of community, while not open to the public, readers should know that the BPO performs special holiday concerts for students with disabilities, including many, many of the musician’s favorite concert of all, the annual trip to St. Mary’s School for the Deaf (including a visit from Santa).
BPO Violinist Loren Silvertrust is all in on that one and told Buffalo Rising:
I LOVE playing Nutcracker every year, the music never gets old, although this year I’m playing Messiah which also has some great music. My other favorite concert each year usually kicks off our holiday season at St. Mary’s school for the deaf. It’s short, fun, has singing, signing, dancing and they are the greatest audience!! And they give us coffee and cookies and donuts! (the key to any Buffalonian’s heart obviously).
Jingle Bell Jam, a BPO Kids Concert, Sunday, December 11 at 2:30 pm at Kleinhans. This tradition of family festive frivolity includes a seasonal souvenir for kids and Santa himself helps conduct and lead the holiday sing-along. The BPO’s new “Conductor Diversity Fellow” is Fernanda Lastra who will conduct and be joined by Kate Bassett, narrator, members of the Royal Academy of Ballet, and as mentioned, Santa. From Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow” to Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” it’s about an hour-long child-friendly program. For details and tickets, visit bpo.org or call 716-885-5000.
BPO Principal Trombonist Jonathan Lombardo told Buffalo Rising:
Come Thanksgiving I look forward to playing all of the different holiday concerts the BPO offers. No other time of year has its own soundtrack and personally, I think it’s some of the greatest music ever written.
John Morris Russell’s Holiday Pops
Thursday-Friday December 15-16 at 10:30 am, then Saturday, December 17, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, December 18 at 2:30 pm all concerts at Kleinhans Music Hall
Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell returns with his signature high-energy style for four festive performances filled with holiday music favorites, a carol sing-along, and maybe even a visit from the “man with the bag” himself. Maestro Russell will be joined by Sydney McSweeney, vocalist; the African American Cultural Center, BPO Associate Concertmaster Amy Glidden, violin; and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. It’s a full-length concert with intermission. For details and tickets, visit bpo.org or call the box office at 716-885-5000.
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