BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but the holidays are already in full swing — you’d be hard-pressed to find a store that hasn’t put out its festive goods, and many radio stations have also begun their holiday music lineup. And at their Holiday Spirit concert, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra offers a stunning selection of winter melodies to ring in the season… no matter how early it may be.
“It’s a little early,” explains the orchestra’s Conductor and Music Director Dr. Beverly Everett, “but when I first came here in 2008, the orchestra didn’t have a Christmas or holiday concert. Once we started establishing that, we had to work around other events that were already established.
The orchestra is not performing this concert alone, however: as part of a special partnership, members of the Central Dakota Children’s Choir (specifically their Bel Canto selection) from all across western ND are lending their voices to the show. This collaboration does not occur often, but Dr. Everett notes that it is one that has been around for some time.
“To the choral community,” explains the CDCC’s Artistic Director and Bel Canto Director Teri Fay, “children’s choirs are always a unique thing, and 26 years ago — when CDCC first started — there wasn’t a children’s choir in town that was open to children from every school. I’ve played french horn in the symphony forever, and when Beverly came to town, we collaborated on quite a few projects. We don’t often do a project of this size.”
“Terri is a member of our orchestra,” Dr. Everett states. “It’s a nice relationship. We’ve had Bel Canto perform on these holiday concerts multiple times, and it’s always such a joy. I think there are very few things that invoke the spirit of Christmas as much as children’s voices — and when you combine that
Although there are not too many changes between the symphony’s traditional fare and work done with the accompaniment of the choir, Dr. Everett also notes that there are some important things that must be done when working with a choral group — or any special guest vocalists, for that matter — which are essential to keeping the different aspects of the performance as balanced as possible.
After a brief opening speech (given by the BMSO’s Executive Director Mike Gardner in a Santa costume) and a Christmas medley, the Holiday Spirit show began in earnest. The first half of the show consisted primarily of a full viewing of the classic short The Snowman — during which the animation’s soundtrack and vocals were performed live by the orchestra and children’s choir.
Following a brief intermission, the concert continued with a series of holiday classics — with featured pieces ranging from iconic choices like ‘Sleigh Ride’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’ to more surprising choices such as ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘Somewhere in my Memory’. Although the aspect of Christmas is still prevalent in both the decor and music, those behind the show state that it is important to remember that it is meant as a celebration of not just that specific day, but of winter in general.
“I think what’s unique about this concert is that it brings together different pieces of music that are familiar to both the audience and orchestra members,” Dr. Everett notes, “as well as those that are very personal to people.”
The performance ended with a group caroling session (where audience members were encouraged to sing along with the children to a series of famous holiday songs), as well as the appearance of a truly surprising piece of music. In what was perhaps the most dastardly and clever way to end the symphony, the orchestra and choir presented an adaptation of Mariah Carey’s infamous ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’, composed exclusively for the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra by member Abelardo Flores. While this served to lower the curtain on an amusing experience rather than a heart-stirring one, Dr. Everett states that it still contributes to the message that Holiday Spirit intends to get across — as well as what she hopes that the event’s attendees will take away from the experience.
“I hope that this makes the audience feel good,” Dr. Everett says. “There’s so much going on in our world, and in people’s lives right now. I hope that when they sit there for an hour and a half or however long, that the show makes them happy, and helps to bring out the joy of Christmas.”
Of course, it isn’t just the guests who will be remembering the concert for some time — is confident that the members of the children’s choir will keep this unique experience in their hearts for years to come.
“Seeing the kids and the orchestra on stage at the same time gives me a feeling of warmth and excitement, Dr. Everett says. “It’s special to me because I grew up in children’s choirs, and they were part of my musical formation as a kid. To see those kids having the same kind of experience fills my heart with joy.”
“Who gets to sing with a symphony orchestra backing you up in this town?”, Fay asks. “Hardly anybody. For some of these kids, it’ll be the experience of a lifetime to be able to do this like professional musicians. I know those who have had the experience and sung with the symphony before all remember it. It’s a pretty big deal.”
The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra will be performing the Holiday Spirit show a second time on the evening of Saturday, November 18th, at 7:30 p.m. In order to purchase tickets, visit this link. Admission is also available at the Bismarck Event Center.