VSO plans holiday concerts

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra is celebrating the energy and warmth of the holidays with a pair of concerts, one grandiose and one more intimate. “Holiday Pops” heads to the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News Friday, and “Holiday Brass” rings Dec. 15 at St. Bede Catholic Church.

“They’re very different programs,” said “Holiday Pops” conductor Robert Shoup. “They’re different gifts under the tree.”

The pops concert features the full symphony accompanied by the VSO chorus, alongside several special guests.

“It’s a concert that by its nature is charged by expectations from the audience,” Shoup said. “It’s exciting to try and meet those expectations. But it’s also a chance to introduce some new things.”

The concert features renditions of classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Sleigh Ride” alongside carols such as “The First Noel.” The audience will have opportunities to sing along.

Additions include the I. Sherman Greene Chorale ensemble and the VSO chorus performing a cappella spiritual tunes. A local teenager also will also put a hip-hop twist on the classic “Nutcracker” dance.

“The degrees of divisiveness and separation that we’re seeing in our culture really have me longing for what can be so good about the holidays and having people together from different backgrounds for the holidays,” Shoup said.

“Holiday Brass” shifts focus onto the brass and percussion sections of the symphony in a concert designed to be smaller and more intimate.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s a mixture of classical stuff and pop stuff,” said Pete DuBeau, the concert’s tuba player. “It’s very accessible. If you’ve never been to a symphony concert before, this would be a good one to go to.”

He said the brass section features a lot of people new to the symphony, providing some fresh energy for the ensemble.

The concert features the likes of “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song” as well as a Hanukkah medley.

“We have the sacred and the secular,” DuBeau said. “The arrangements are really fun.”

Similar to “Holiday Pops,” the brass concert will also feature singalong opportunities. DuBeau said it complements the bigger concert and offers an opportunity to bring the VSO to different, smaller venues.

“It’s just more of it in a different voice,” he said. “I hope it will become a nice tradition for people. It’s the only concert my wife ever comes to.”

Shoup said the music of the holidays rekindles old memories and reinforces the hope and goodwill associated with the season, and the VSO’s concerts serve to remind the audience of that notion.

“I hope they leave uplifted,” he said. “I hope they leave being reminded of what is good and beautiful in our community and one another.”

Want to go?

“Holiday Pops” runs 8 p.m. Friday at the Ferguson Center for the Arts, 8 p.m. Saturday at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.

“Holiday Brass” chimes in at 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at St. Bede Catholic Church, 3686 Ironbound Road. Performances also run 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Norfolk’s Roper Performing Arts Center and 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

Tickets for both concerts start at $25 and are available at tickets.virginiasymphony.org or by calling 892-6366.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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