Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra returns to Mechanics Hall
WORCESTER – The Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra must have done something right with their annual “Holiday Pops” concerts at Mechanics Hall.
For 40 consecutive years, from the first performance in 1980 to 2019, the concerts were sold out.
Now, after the popular event was put on hold last year due to the pandemic, the focus is on getting it right for the local Worcester orchestra.
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The Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra’s “Holiday Pops” concert returns with a performance at 8 pm on December 11 at Mechanics Hall.
“It’s a combination of a lot of elements,” said Paul Levenson, executive director of the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra. “I love putting on the concert. It’s so much fun. I just can’t wait to be with all these people again and be a part of this tradition again.”
This not only includes being with the audience, but also the large number of participants still involved in setting up the show.
For the December 11 concert, conductor Jorge Soto will lead the orchestra and there will be a college choir made up of students from Assumption University and Worcester State University under the direction of Bradford T. Dumont.
Vocal soloists are Jane Shivick, soprano, who has given many brilliant performances with the orchestra, and Christon Carney, tenor, a relatively new voice on the Worcester stage who is increasingly being heard through exceptional performances.
The Grafton-based Murphy Academy of Irish Dance, led by award-winning choreographers Elizabeth and Bridget Murphy, performed at the 2019 concert and presented one of the most electrifying dance performances in MSO history, Levenson said. “They really brought down the house and we’re getting them back.” A jazz ensemble drawn from the orchestra will also perform.
“There’s a lot going on there. Lots of talented people, ”Levenson said. The music ranges from Handel to songs to sing.
“That’s all the variety in the gig. If something doesn’t appeal to you, wait five minutes.”
There are few places left for the concert
It seems to be working. Floor table seats for this year’s concert are already full. There was still a few balcony seats left at the time of writing, but hurry up if you are planning to go to the show.
“We’re almost sold out. We’re really happy with that, with the crowds coming back. People missed it. We’re just happy with that,” said Levenson.
The Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra, now in its 73rd season, was co-founded by Levenson’s late parents Harry and Madelyn Levenson.
In July, the orchestra celebrated its 70th anniversary of free performances at Institute Park with two free concerts.
However, the pandemic affected its programming and the July concerts were MSO’s first performances since 2019.
One of these shows saw MSO explore a new program with “Jazz in the Park: Celebrating Great African-American Composers”.
“We had a miserable time there in July,” Levenson recalls. For “Jazz in the Park” it “rained all day and 10 minutes before the concert the sun comes up. We had a decent crowd. Artistically it was one of the best concerts we have done.”
MSO’s indoor programming typically includes its annual “Piano Duo Gala Concert” in the fall in the Tuckerman Hall, which the orchestra owns and operates, with up to seven pianists playing simultaneously on two pianos.
Then there is the “Holiday Pops” concert at Mechanics Hall.
The idea is that the “Duo Piano Gala” returns next year. In deciding if Holiday Pops was to come back this year, “I think we put that off. We waited until the summer was over. We didn’t know what was going to happen, frankly,” Levenson said.
MSO saw what other orchestras, especially the Boston Symphony Orchestra, were doing to come back. Many of them give concerts in December, including the Boston Pops, which is under the auspices of the BSO.
Also, “we got a number of calls over the summer,” Are you doing it (the “Holiday Pops” gig)? “Levenson said. Finally,” We put it in our brochure. “
Almost immediately, orders for tickets started to arrive, he said.
Now, there are also events happening again at Tuckerman Hall, and the MSO will be performing on December 10 with Mannheim Steamroller at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
The next night, it’s at Mechanics Hall.
“It’s party or famine in this business. We’re just excited to be back,” Levenson said.
“I think of my parents when I do the programming. I have a one-sided conversation with them,” he said. “You are looking for high quality pieces that fit together. The adjustment in the allotted time. ”
The concert will begin with Handel’s magnificent “La Rejouissance” in “Music for the Royal Fireworks” and “The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” in “Solomon”. Then, Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz” from “Swan Lake” will be followed by selections from “The Nutcracker”.
The combined student choirs then take the stage for a mix of works including Christmas carols, folk hymns and “Believe” from “Polar Express”. The first half ends with a song.
The Murphy Academy of Irish Dance is out for the second half, and other highlights will likely be the solo performances of Carney’s Campana Sobre Campana, Shivick’s “O Holy Night” and Shivick and Carney combined as a duet for “Brindisi”. Verdi’s “La Traviata.” Leroy Anderson (“Sleigh Ride” and “A Christmas Festival”) will also be in the spotlight, while Strauss’s “Radetzky March” will nod to the New Year. The festivities will end with another song and a visit from Santa Claus.
“I have such a wonderful orchestra for this performance,” said Levenson. “We have some of the best musicians, I think, in the area.”
Myron Romanul is the orchestra’s longtime conductor, and he and Soto had conducted the orchestra before the pandemic. But Romanul is based in Germany and Soto, who also played in the orchestra as a violinist, took over.
Indeed, Soto is now considered a rising star in the orchestral world and has been engaged by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in various capacities.
“We are delighted that things are happening for him. We’ve seen how great a conductor he is, “Levenson said.” Myron, Jorge – the orchestra loves them both. ”
Since the start in 1980, the concert has had students on stage as part of a large choir.
“Working with students – we love it. It’s one of our main missions of what we do,” Levenson said. “They really are the best hope for us to build the next generation of classical music. If it’s a successful concert, they will remember them for the rest of their lives. They will bring their children and grandchildren.”
With over 40 years on the books, that’s already close to happening.
“There’s a whole psychology of ticket sales. We have very loyal people. There are a lot of people who have been coming to this concert for decades. They bring their families. They bring their extended families. students – they buy tickets, ”Levenson said.
“Last year was really tough. You always say if you don’t, are you going to lose that crowd? And we haven’t lost that crowd,” Levenson said.
“And that’s why I’m so grateful. There are so many precarious elements in classical music programming. We’re grateful and we’re very happy that the people we play with are so excited, and the audience. too. .”
Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra – “Holiday Pops”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, December 11
Where: Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester
How much: Floor table seats for this year’s concert are sold out. Balcony seats cost $ 40 each and can be obtained by calling 508-752-0888 or going to Mechanicalhall.org, or by calling MSO at 508-754-1234 or masymphonie.org.
Information on COVID-19 protocols is also available at Mechanicalhall.org