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Christopher Seaman's Hand-Picked Holiday Favorites Become “A Classical Christmas”

November 24, 2009

RPO's New Musical Welcome to the Holidays

Rochester, NY – The chill in the air and the first frost signal that the holidays are right around the corner. This year, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under Music Director Christopher Seaman brings a new musical welcome to the holidays on Saturday, December 12, at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  A Classical Christmas, with some of Seaman’s special hand-picked seasonal favorites, also highlights the vocal talent of the Rochester Oratorio Society (ROS), Eric Townell, music director.  Audiences will get an eclectic mix of seasonal music from Bach’s celebratory Christmas Oratorio to Engelbert Humperdinck’s charming Hansel and Gretel to the rousing “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Opening with the joint forces of the RPO and the ROS for the opening chorus from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the RPO moves into the “Prelude” and “Dream Pantomime” from Engelbert Humperdinck’s beloved opera Hansel and Gretel.  Composed in 1890, it is based on the children’s fairytale of the same name, and was given as a Christmas gift to the composer’s nieces and nephews. Upon its completion, the opera was an immediate success, and has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances. 

From a children’s fairytale, the RPO turns to Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, made famous in popular culture by Mickey Mouse as the apprentice in Walt Disney’s original film, Fantasia. Next, Christopher Seaman goes to his native England with the ROS for Vaughan Williams’ breathtaking “Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres” from his Hodie (translated as “this day”), a large-scale Christmas work.  This mixture of religious spirit with English carols is arguably one of the most serene compositions Vaughan Williams ever wrote. 

After intermission, the “Polonaise” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Ukrainian folk-influenced opera Christmas Eve is followed by the RPO – and the ROS singing in Russian – in two movements from Borodin’s festive Polovtsian Dances. The RPO remains in the Russian frame of mind with the Suite from Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake and its memorable winter snow scenes. Composed in 1875, the story of Swan Lake is based on Russian folk tale and German legend. Set to Tchaikovsky’s brilliant composition, Swan Lake tells the tale of a beautiful princess cursed by an evil sorcerer and turned into a swan by day and a woman by night.

This festive evening closes with Handel’s joyous “Hallelujah” Chorus from Messiah, the composer’s most famous work. Messiah is a story of resurrection, and the “Hallelujah” Chorus marks a pivotal moment in the work.  Patrons will have the opportunity to sing along during the encore of the Chorus.

An integral part of Rochester’s vibrant arts community, the Rochester Oratorio Society gives voice to the very best qualities of the region. Under Music Director Eric Townell in his fourth season, the ROS explores a widely diverse, multicultural, and modern repertoire that includes the great standards; collaborates with local arts groups of all kinds; and performs in nontraditional community settings. In July 2008, the ROS performed in Beijing, China as the keynote ensemble of the pre-Olympic Cultural Festival.  Eric Townell is widely recognized as a versatile and dynamic conductor of choral, operatic, and symphonic repertoire. Formerly Music Director of the Central Wisconsin Symphony, he has led family, educational, and pops concerts for the RPO and for the Milwaukee and Madison Symphony orchestras, and appeared as a guest conductor with the Lincoln, Hershey, Fox Valley (WI), Prince Georges, and Adrian Symphony orchestras. A two-time prizewinner of the International Opera Conducting Course/Competition, he made his European debut at the Silesian State Opera, Czech Republic. He concurrently leads the Master Singers of Milwaukee.

This concert is sponsored by Paetec.  Tickets are $22-$60 with $75 box seats, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org; by phone (454-2100); in-person from the RPO Box Office, 108 East Avenue, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply. 

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