CONDUCTOR SMACKDOWN! – More Musical Mistletoe Please!

Conductor Smack Down!
Conductor Smack Down!

How is it even possible that I like Christmas music?  I am Jewish and I grew up (well the jury is still out on that one!) in Sydney Australia where at this time of year it’s 100 degrees.  There, none of the songs such as Let it Snow, White Christmas but especially Baby It’s Cold Outside make any sense whilst having a Christmas barbecue on the beach!

By the time this weekend is over, I will have conducted 30 Holiday concerts since November 23 including 2 productions of the Nutcracker and 5 different Holiday Pops programs in 12 cities or towns (for Christmas week I will post about some highlights).  Despite my travel woes, this year in particular I have really enjoyed the music, but especially the reaction to it from the audiences.

Quick history:  We spent our first 7 years in the US in Fort Worth TX.  It didn’t snow on Christmas the whole time we were there. Well then we moved to Buffalo NY…..Our first Christmas there (2001) it snowed 7 feet in two days and the weather forecast had been calling for flurries with accumulations possible!  I guess I didn’t know the meaning of those two little words “lake effect”.  After shoveling into the middle of the street, my wife took a picture of me waist deep in snow.  On the back of the photo before sending to family and friends back in Oz we wrote the words; Not dreaming of a White Christmas anymore!!!!!

Let’s just say all the songs make sense now, and despite the commercialization of the holiday season, songs like The Christmas Song and I’ll Be Home for Christmas remind me of the essence of the season, a time of togetherness and remembrance with family, looking ahead to the new year.  There is of course the sacred and religious music, and in one of my programs this year, I did the opening chorus of the Bach Christmas Oratorio, what inspiring music, genius!  How can we not love the Messiah and the Nutcracker?  250 plus performances of the Nutcracker and I am still captivated by the ballet, but especially the score…The Mouse King is still undefeated! (or else how does he keep getting back up night after night, year after year!)

It’s also a time I go back to my music school days when I majored in Trumpet and also studied singing.  I started a tradition for the Holiday Pops in Springfield by singing and/or playing one song on the program.  I am not the greatest singer or player, but I tell the audience that it is something I like personally to do for them (in place of asking for their forgiveness if it doesn’t go that well!).  This year for the Syracuse Holiday Pops, I sang Baby It’s Cold Outside with a newfound friend, the phenomenal and radiant Soprano Mara Bonde. I love that song, we had so much fun, even adding a little choreography!

For the audiences, sometimes a Holiday Pops and/or a Nutcracker is also a family tradition.  I never see so many children and large family groups at any other performance, with the exception of certain dedicated family concerts.  That makes me love this music even more, as it brings so many together into the hall with us.  The sing-a-long is the only time we really perform with an audience as equals. It’s always fun to watch them reach for the words whenever there is a second verse!

For me this music is still new, I didn’t grow up with these traditions and performing to so many people doesn’t just make it the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Right now as a performer it is the most wonderful time of my life!

PS Mom, don’t worry, I always include a Chanuka medley!

Send this to a friend