Notes on Holiday Programming

Holidays and music have always gone hand in hand. Whether it’s the 4th of the July or the 25th of December, Halloween or New Years Eve, music is used to celebrate those special days that mark something holy, temporal, national, or personal.

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Orchestras have a particularly rich palette to use in the month of December and the concerts I’ve programmed for you reflect the diverse religious and traditional music we love to hear during this time. The Baroque era, which includes the music of Bach and Handel, abounds with music to celebrate Christmas and the first of half of our concert titled, A Baroque Holiday, contains two pieces that were written expressly for the Christmas season, Corelli and Manfredini’s “Christmas” Concertos. Their full titles, Concerto Grosso, actually reflects their real function, which pits a small group (concerto) against a large group (grosso), and this musical form did eventually morph into the modern day concerto, as well as the modern day symphony. Ironically, the most famous Baroque era piece that performed during Christmas, Handel’s Messiah, was intended to celebrate Easter, but it would seem that history has deemed it forever to be associated with Christmas.

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Our other concert, A Classic Holiday, is far more ecumenical in its offerings. From Hannukah to the film, White Christmas, it is a concert that celebrates the season, rather than any particular religious holiday or observance. For me, what I love most about this concert is its pageantry and sense of nostalgia. It is also more kid-friendly, and there’s nothing nicer than seeing kids show up to our concerts, eyes bright with excitement at seeing Santa Claus and singing along to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Holiday concerts create a sense of family and belonging through the power of music, and that’s something always worth celebrating! Happy holidays!

Written by

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic

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