Symphony Staff Holiday Music Picks!

This year, the staff of Pacific Symphony celebrates the holiday season the best way we know how – by celebrating the incredible music that warms our hearts, inspires us, and reminds us of the season. Here are some Symphony staff’s holiday favorites!

Abby Edmunds, Director of Volunteer Services
Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus from “Messiah”

Abby chose Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus Orchestra, which she feels is a song of hope for the holidays and the new year to come. She likes this virtual, socially distanced performance by the Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London.

Chris Adriance, Marketing & Loyalty Campaigns Manager
Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” – Act II: Pantomime

“I’m partial to ‘Hänsel und Gretel’ because I performed it in the pit orchestra back in college but everything about it feels festive and cheery (except that evil witch). The melodies are memorable, grand and filled with the kind of fantasy you’d expect from a Disney movie. I can’t help but picture a cozy German cottage in the middle of winter. Some neat trivia: The opera was first performed on December 23, 1893, conducted by none other than Richard Strauss!”

Jean Oelrich, Director of Marketing & Communications
VOCES8 singing Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”

“Since moving from Chicago to Southern California, I have developed a deep appreciation of winter … watching it in the movies and on the Weather Channel, but not having to worry about physically dealing with snow and sub-zero temperatures. My favorite carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ reminds me of many chilly Christmases in the Windy City. The lyrics by the 19th century English poet Christina Rosetti perfectly evoke the season: ‘Frosty wind made moan; Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter long ago.’ My favorite rendition of this carol is by the vocal group VOCES8. They’re an a capella octet from the United Kingdom, who have recorded a lot of wonderful holiday music. Here they perform the piece in an arrangement by the brilliant young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.”  

Kurt Mortensen, Director of Audience Engagement
Prokofiev’s “Troika” from “Lieutenant Kijé”

“Though the Russian film Lieutenant Kijé, for which Prokofiev wrote the music, is a satire about bureaucratic incompetence and therefore nothing to do with Christmas, a section of music called ‘Troika’ has become associated as such for its musical depiction of a sleigh ride through the winter snow. A troika is a traditional Russian three-horse sleigh, and Prokofiev titled the piece to evoke this imagery, while using jingling bells and an infectious Christmas-like melody, resulting in an accidental Christmas favorite. Classic Rock fans will recognize this tune as the instrumental break in Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe In Father Christmas,’ which narrowly missed the number #1 spot on the singles chart upon release in 1975, beat out only by Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Ironically, this popular ‘Christmas song,’ still heard frequently during the holidays today, was a written as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas by the former King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer front man, becoming once again another accidental Christmas classic which has subsequently been covered by many others including: Vertical Horizon, U2, Toyah Willcox, Sarah Brightman, Susan Boyle and Robbie Williams.”

Ashlyn Ronkes, Box Circle & Governing Members Concierge
Tchaikovsky’s “December: Christmas” from The Seasons

“In his The Seasons, a collection of twelve short pieces, Tchaikovsky reflects through his piano on the characters of the months of the year as he experienced them in Russia. His last piece of the collection is ‘December: Christmas.’ This carefree A-flat major waltz carries a simple, nostalgic and childlike innocence, and is a wonderful listen if you need to take a deep breath and a remind yourself of the joy that the season brings!”

Alexey Bonca, Public Relations & Social Media Manager
Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

“One of my favorite Christmas songs comes from John Lennon, with his 1971 ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – I chose the Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement, from their 2010 Christmas album. While technically a protest song, Lennon’s original has an unbelievably powerful melody, and this arrangement gives his emotional performance its due. I hope we can all take the spirit of this piece with us into the New Year, and have an incredible 2021.”

Lorraine Caukin, Director of Sales
Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” (Weihnachtsoratorium)

“I lived many years in Germany, which has provided us with many of our favorite Christmas traditions. In the performing arts, however, Germans differ from us somewhat with their holiday fare. While Americans flock every December to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ Germans are more likely to attend a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio.’ Bach’s six-part masterwork opens with soaring trumpets, thundering timpani and a joyful chorus that never fails to make my heart sing. This 1981 performance is led by conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the pioneers of the Early Music movement.”

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