For many of us, the winter holiday season is the one time of year when music steps out from the background. Regardless of faith or upbringing, it's close to impossible to avoid the music of Christmas. Fortunately, for every rousing rendition of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bell Rock," there's a classical favorite, and in an age when the coarsening of culture has all but eradicated the classical tradition, it's refreshing to find a time when you're just as likely to hear Handel as you are to hear Perry Como. For music lovers, this is a very good thing, and it's a much-need annual boost to get people excited about music again.
With two weeks still remaining till the big day, the holiday concert season is already more than halfway over. But instead of petering out, it's picking up steam. Among a smorgasbord of local music events, our very own professional symphony orchestra is taking a stab at the ubiquitous holiday concert with a concert suitably titled A Classical Christmas. The Philharmonic already pulled out all the stops for their gorgeous accompaniment to The Nutcracker ballet a few weeks ago, but this time the orchestra takes center stage with this installment of holiday cheer. They even invited a few guests, including the Palmer High School Chamber Singers, the Pikes Peak Bell Ringers, and a performance of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" by local celebrities.
The dizzying program traverses 400 years of classical and popular Christmas musical traditions. The Philharmonic will perform music of Georges Bizet and Ralph Vaughan Williams, along with myriad Christmas songs and carols. The orchestra will reprise the popular "Waltz of the Flowers" from The Nutcracker Suite, and concertmaster Michael Hanson will be featured in the bow-shredding "Winter" from Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
Some young singers from the Palmer High School Chamber Singers and Wasson High School Eclipse will join the orchestra in Johann Sebastian Bach's "Magnificat" in D Major. Bach's genius can be traced to the fact that his counterpoint is just as effective in a piece for solo instrument as it is with an ensemble piece, but the richness of Bach's musical textures is poignantly apparent in his large-scale works. This is holy music, indeed, and when followed so closely by the bell ringers, it just might be the golden moment for an army of angels to get their wings.
But what about those celebrity guests? It just wouldn't be Christmas without a message of peace and good will, and that applies to politicians too. A few good sports will take to the stage after the mean-spirited frenzy of the recent political season to join in bipartisan harmony. The soloists include Mayor Lionel Rivera, Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, Rep. Mike Merrifield and state Sen. Andy McElhany. Some other local celebs will join the perfect harmony, including Susan Edmondson of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Jeanna Wearing of KCME, Mark Arnest of the Gazette, and two of the Philharmonic's own -- Susan Greene, executive director, and Brian Clifford, graphic designer and blues guitarist extraordinaire. Rumor has it the guitar will make an appearance too.
-- Bettina Swigger capsule A Classical Christmas with The Colorado Springs Philharmonic and special guests; Lawrence Leighton Smith, conducting
Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Saturday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2:30 p.m.
520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com