A Joyous Frame of Mind: Peter Jacobi Preview of “Holly Days”

Music Beat

Music events filling the holiday season By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist

There’s a pause in the music for Thanksgiving, save for an event with a look-ahead purpose: the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Holly Days Christmas,” a cheery affair devoted to put us in a joyous frame of mind for the December holidays celebration next to come.

That happens Friday, the after Thanksgiving Friday, as part of the Canopy of Lights extravaganza in the Courthouse Square that also comes along each year. The concert — featuring guest soprano Amy Cope and, of course, jolly old Santa — takes place in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, just a few feet from the square.

Actually, there’ll be two concerts, a shorter one at 5:30 for families with younger children and a more extended one at 8.

At the helm, on the podium, you’ll see the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s new artistic director, Alejandro Gomez Guillen, who is in the middle of his first year on the job. He’s bringing a new energy to the orchestra, building on what the BSO has been accomplishing during the past decade in raising the quality of ensemble and broadening the repertoire.

I asked him to describe what you’ll hear when you visit the BSO’s “Holly Days.” He lit up my computer screen.

“Our program is family centered,” he told me. “We will share some of the lovely world dances that Tchaikovsky so masterfully crafted to depict the idea that holidays can be experienced with different foods and rhythms.

“We will also feature our wonderful bassoon section in a work by Chicago-based composer James Stephenson, in which the bassoons combine masterpieces of orchestral literature with famous carols in an extremely clever way. We will also have emphasis on secular holiday works played by our brass section as folks gather for the concert, and we will honor the Jewish tradition with tunes including ‘Oh Chanuka,’ ‘I Have a Little Dreydl,’ and ‘Ma’oz Tur’ in brilliant combinations.

“For both shows,” he continued, “we will have the presence of elves and children who will interact with our audience, and we will also feature the beautiful voice of Amy Cope who will lead the sing-along with lovely descants and will also lead the timeless ‘O Holy Night.’ Our concerts will also feature the classic poem, ‘T’was the Night before Christmas,’ with the charming and descriptive orchestral score of Bill Holcombe.

“Our hope,” said Maestro Gomez Guillen, “is to share musical holiday traditions from different world perspectives, all emphasizing the idea that no matter what we believe in, we may agree that this is a time to come together as family and as a community. We couldn’t be more thrilled that our BSO can join in the celebration of the Canopy of Lights.”

Sounds good to me!

If You Go

WHAT AND WHO: The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, its conductor Alejandro Gomez Guillen, soprano Amy Cope, the Bloomington Brass Quintet, and St. Nicholas present “Holly Days: Christmas with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra,” a friendly tradition.

WHEN: The day after Thanksgiving, Friday, at 5:30 and 8 p.m. (the earlier one a bit shorter for families with younger children).

WHERE: Buskirk-Chumley Theater, just off the Courthouse Square on Kirkwood, as part of the Canopy of Lights celebration.

TICKETS: (Reserved seating) for adults, $15 in advance, $18 on the day of the concert; for students with ID, $8 in advance, $10 on the day of the concert; for children 18 and under, $5.