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Holiday harmonies 

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic plays an unusual selection this season

click to enlarge Music Director Lawrence Leighton Smith
  • Music Director Lawrence Leighton Smith

Like it or not, the holiday season is upon us. The eggnog is flowing, the tree has been dragged out of its basement corner and assembled, and the lines at the post office continue to grow.

But the most telling sign that Christmas is upon us is the music that is seemingly everywhere. But if the omnipresent easy listening arrangements of the sounds of the season that are piped in to every possible venue invoke pre-holiday rage, perhaps it's time to head away from the stores and toward some good live orchestral music.

Need another reason? This music was written long before mall Santas, gaudy light displays, and all the other modern-day trappings that stifle 21st-century contemporary children of all ages.

Keeping with the spirit of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's inaugural season, Music Director Lawrence Leighton Smith will conduct this year's slightly different winter holiday program. While the time-honored, staid tradition of presenting a holiday singalong of George Handel's Messiah is a mainstay of most symphony orchestra programs, this new concert aims to appeal to a wide audience by starting a new tradition.

The program features the baroque classic "Christmas Concerto" by Arcangelo Corelli.

"This concerto is part of a group of concerto grossi, and the last movement in this concerto is called a "Pifa," which is a shepherd's song [sung] at a soft, rocking tempo and has a very pastoral, Christmas-y feel," Maestro Smith explained.

Some special musicians will join the Philharmonic when they perform the "Toy Symphony" by Leopold Mozart, which requires soloists to perform on toy musical instruments. Because virtually anyone can play the parts, it is also a time-honored ritual to showcase the skills of local celebrities.

This year's victims (ahem, soloists) include local personalities Mayor Lionel Rivera, KRDO's Angela Unruh, KCME's Jeanna Wearing, and Philharmonic executive director Susan Greene, as well as Judith Fair-Spaulding, who has been a major contributor to the organization's recent successful fund-raising campaign.

Smith explained: "'The Toy Symphony' is really for yucks. The score has been attributed to Joseph Haydn and to Leopold Mozart, and this may be because neither one of them wanted to take credit for it. It's just a silly piece; it's a good time. The real fun will come from the fact that none of our soloists reads music, except for Don Jenkins [the director of the Colorado Springs Chorale], who we hope will be able to reign the others in."

Winter brides take note: The Philharmonic will also play the much-beloved "Pachelbel Canon." While the piece is frequently overplayed, it remains a popular, familiar, and moving piece to many audience members. Smith admits, "Sure, I've heard it a lot. But I remember the first time I heard it back in the 1970s when it was first discovered. And it is a pleasing melody. We hope the audience enjoys it."

To round out the concert and ensure everyone's participation, the Colorado Springs Chorale will take the stage and invite the audience to sing along to some of the more memorable selections in Handel's Messiah (but without all those boring recitativos), including the famous "Alleluia" chorus, and a Christmas Carol Sing-Along. Music like this performed by musicians of this caliber should melt the frozen heart of even the grinchiest grinch.

-- Bettina Swigger

capsule The Colorado Springs Philharmonic, The Colorado Springs Chorale, and special guests

A Classical Christmas, Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductor

Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.

Saturday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m.

$18-38; 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com

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