virtual advent tour: holiday concerts

Virtual Advent TourWelcome to Day 19 of the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour! I’m pleased to be a part of the tour this year. Special thank you to hosts Kelly and Marg for including me (visit their blog for all the posts, and my fellow Day 19 poster Heather @ Capricious Reader today).

For my advent post, I’d like to talk about holiday concerts. Confession: I’m not too much of a “Christmas person.” My favorite holidays are by far St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday (what? 🙂 ). But one aspect of the holiday season I do have a lot of fun with is participating in holiday concerts around the Kansas City metro.

For the past seven or eight years I have been a member of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra (currently as principal bassist), and we always have a holiday concert titled Sounds of the Season. This one has grown and grown every year, so much that now it’s a two-concert series (Friday and Saturday). We typically play a wide variety of holiday favorites:

  • Leontovych: Carol of the Bells
  • Traditional: The First Noel
  • Anderson: A Christmas Festival
  • Anderson: Sleigh Ride
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
  • Holcombe: Festive Sounds of Hanukkah
  • Reed: Russian Christmas Music

I always liked Russian Christmas Music because it has a great bass part, and I appreciate our music director’s acknowledgement of other religious holidays as well (Festive Sounds of Hanukkah). This year, we only played Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite—trading off movements with our guest the Washburn University Jazz Band playing Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Nutcracker. It was really great to experience two strikingly different versions and the crowd loved it!

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

(That’s me—the bassist in front, wearing yellow.)

I’m also in two more local orchestras, Heritage Philharmonic and Kinnor Philharmonic. Heritage’s holiday concerts usually include a children’s choir, and we’ve also played familiar classics (Silent NightO Come All Ye Faithful, etc.), even ranging into medleys of holiday movie music (Home Alone theme, A Charlie Brown Christmas, etc.).

Kinnor Philharmonic is the premier Kansas City Jewish orchestra, now in its third year. Kinnor has an annual New Year’s Day concert to start of the year with inspiring, hopeful music. This time around we’re playing Strauss waltzes and marches (The Blue Danube, Kaiser Waltz, Egyptian March), Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Weber’s Oberon Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, and the Allegretto (last movement) of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (which you’d recognize from Disney’s Fantasia film).

Outside of these orchestras, I’ve taken gigs playing bass for various churches around the holidays, most recently for Handel’s Messiah (on my birthday, December 8!) and I’ve played Fauré’s Requiem around this time of year in the past, too.

In addition to playing concerts myself, I also end up reviewing holiday performing arts offerings in the Kansas City area for my online arts journal, KCMetropolis.org. Here are a few favorites over the years:

I have found so many great, fresh twists on holiday standards every year attending local arts organizations’ holiday events, and I urge you to do the same in your town!

Happy holidays and a merry musical new year! 🙂

bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts

I have been enjoying Rory at Fourth Street Review‘s bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts lists for a while now (credit to Christine at Bookishly Boisterous for originating it). Since I’m coming up on several days with nothing to post and even less time for blogging, I thought I’d jump in with a bookish/not-so-bookish post of my own. Basically, it’s just a list of what’s on your mind lately, what you’ve encountered this week, random plans, or whatever you want to mention!

1. OF COURSE when I have a big concert weekend and my parents are coming in and I need new tires on the car, naturally Kansas City gets a winter storm and I have to drive through it a bunch. Of course! I love winter weather but for real, errgh.

2. Okay this is SO college-studenty of me, but one of the reasons I love it when my folks come to visit is so we can try new (to us) restaurants, like this weekend we might check out the Farmhouse in City Market. Or whatever we want!

3. Speaking of my folks’ visit, they are taking the train and when I went to check the status on its departure (because of the weather here), I discovered Chicago Union Station’s magic piano—it “responds” musically to what’s happening around it. So awesome!

4. I recently (finally) got some new CDs: John Legend‘s Love in the Future, Daughter‘s If You Leave, and Mandolin Orange‘s This Side of Jordan. They’re very different and I love them all! I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a new CD.

5. I cannot wait until our trip up to Wisconsin for Christmas. Counting down the nights (8 more). We’re going to see my mom’s family and go to a Packer game, hang out in Madison, and it’s going to be amazing and much needed time off. (Did I mention I can’t wait?)

6. I’m on a brownie kick lately. Made smitten kitchen’s favorite brownies twice, and I think I might make them again for a party on Sunday and for my coworkers next week before the holiday, too.

7. I almost bought a book today… saw one I’ve had on my radar for a while now on sale at the school bookstore for $7. Very tempted, but proud of myself for resisting. I have way too many on my TBR right now! One day…

8. I haven’t really gone out to do any holiday gift shopping yet, but I’ve been thinking a lot (and looking online) for ideas for the new kids in my life—20-month-old nephew and friends’ new babies. It’s so much fun buying for the little kids! Grown-ups are tough, including me 😉

9. Not sure I’ll accomplish my reading goal this month now… I feel like time is going so fast and I know I won’t get much reading done this weekend or while we’re up in Wisconsin. Oh well, I am probably (likely) being too hard on myself.

10. I’m looking forward to seeing jazz pianist/author/fellow Madisonian Ben Sidran speak on Sunday in Kansas City at the JCCKC’s White Theatre. (Confession: I’ve had his 2003 memoir for years and still haven’t read it!)

kcmetropolis april 4 issue


This past week I saw three great, varied concerts and my reviews are in the April 4 issue of KCMetropolis.org: KC Jazz Orchestra at Unity Temple on the Plaza on Friday night, Austrian ensemble Mnozil Brass at the Lied Center Saturday night, and Musical Theater Heritage’s latest Musical Monday cabaret show. They were all so different… hard to pick a favorite!

Read my reviews in full at KCMetropolis.org:
Case of the “Musical” Mondays
Musicality and brassy mischief
Standards with sauce on the side