By Eric Dundon
The leaves have changed color, the days are shorter, and there’s a briskness to the breeze—it’s time for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to look ahead to holiday concerts. Few things capture the joy and warmth of the holiday season than SLSO performances. Cheerful holiday concerts are a treasured tradition for countless families, and this season, the country’s second-oldest orchestra is taking the holiday spirit on the road while Powell Hall undergoes a transformative expansion and renovation.
From November 24 through December 31, the orchestra will travel to six different venues for a range of concerts that demonstrate the versatility of its musicians. Not sure which concert to choose? Let us help!
Great for families
Concerts in December are perfect for forging family memories—and the SLSO’s concerts have been doing so for years. The most recognizable performances are the Mercy Holiday Celebration concerts (December 12-13 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles and December 16-17 at Stifel Theatre), which will present a range of holiday tunes from the secular like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, to the sacred like “O Holy Night” and a music from a variety of traditions including Chanukah. Don’t overlook the annual Gospel Christmas concert (December 8 at Stifel Theatre), which features the SLSO’s IN UNISON Chorus, sharing music of the season inflected with music from the African diaspora. You can’t miss the chorus and orchestra collaboration on beloved favorites like “Silent Night” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” And, of course, it’s not the holidays without a trip to the movies. This year, the SLSO performs the score live to two films as they play on Stifel Theatre’s big screen: Home Alone (December 9-10) and Back to the Future (December 28-29).
Bringing the star power
The SLSO collaborates with several artists that bring the star power to concerts this holiday season. Broadway and West End veteran vocalist Scarlett Strallen joins the SLSO for the Mercy Holiday Celebration (December 12-17). She’s known for her work in popular musicals including Mary Poppins, A Chorus Line, and Singin’ In the Rain. Wintley Phipps, a multiple-time Grammy Award nominee known for his striking and silky-smooth baritone voice, joins the SLSO and IN UNISON Chorus for A Gospel Christmas (December 8). And joining the orchestra for the surprise filled New Year’s Eve Celebration (December 31 at Stifel Theatre) is Jimmie Herrod, who most recently rose to fame as a finalist on America’s Got Talent.
For the fearless listener
Are you unafraid to try new music? Do you trust you’ll enjoy anything the orchestra plays? Then concerts that feature premieres or surprises might suit you. Try Beethoven’s Second Symphony on December 1, not for the title piece but for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto—a piece for oboe and orchestra never performed by the SLSO and featuring Principal Oboist Jelena Dirks. On December 6, SLSO strings players will introduce new music to St. Louis through the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Live at The Sheldon series. Music by Christian Quiñones hearkens to Puerto Rican traditions while a string trio gives the world premiere of a new work by Harry González, a University of Missouri student. Or why not try the annual favorite New Year’s Eve Celebration concert? The program is always a secret, but you can bet on a great time with conductor Norman Huynh leading the SLSO.
Up close and personal
Several concerts will feature musicians of the SLSO in smaller groups, showing off their virtuosic talent in a more intimate setting. On December 6, a string quintet performs a quartet of works at The Sheldon, the second in a five-concert series curated by musicians. The St. Louis American said the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Live at The Sheldon should be “the hottest ticket in town.” Elsewhere in the season, the SLSO’s Concertmaster and Associate Concertmaster weave a seasonal musical tapestry in performances of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, a juxtaposition that contrasts scenes from the northern Italian countryside with the passionate soundscape of Argentina. David Halen and Erin Schreiber serve as soloists and leaders of an SLSO string ensemble in this inspired program at three locations throughout the region (November 24-26).
If you’re after recognizable music, concerts in November and December are for you! The day after Thanksgiving begins a three-day concert program featuring Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, music everyone has heard. The orchestra rings in December with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, a classical symphony that brings an edge (December 1, two concerts). And if you’re after symphonic arrangements of Christmas carols, look no further than the Mercy Holiday Celebration for favorites including “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Winter Wonderland.”
Close to home
The orchestra is on the road this season, meaning holiday concerts are closer to home than ever. In addition to its primary homes-away-from-home at UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center and Stifel Theatre, the SLSO will perform at St. Joseph Catholic Church Cottleville in St. Charles County (November 24) and Manchester United Methodist Church in west St. Louis County (November 26), as well as The Sheldon in Grand Center (Novembe 26 and December 6). Folks in St. Charles have additional opportunities to hear the SLSO when the orchestra comes to the J. Scheidegger Center for Performing Arts at Lindenwood University for the Mercy Holiday Celebration (December 12-13).
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Director.