by Cathleen Rockwell

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) brought holiday magic and Victorian England to the Civic Auditorium on December 20, a cold, brisk Saturday night less than a week before Christmas.

KSO performed their annual holiday concerts (sponsored by Clayton Homes, Clayton Bank & Trust and Clayton Volvo). The theme was an “Olde English Christmas” and they certainly knew how to transform Knoxville into Great Britain with some of the most beloved and classic holiday music that the old country has to offer.

Concert goers were immediately greeted by the one and only Santa Claus (ho ho ho) as they entered the venue. There were many smiling faces and individuals dressed up in beautiful holiday colors. The audience members included children, adults and seniors, as it was definitely an event for the whole family.

The stage was decorated with beautiful Christmas trees, lighted chandeliers, and a sleigh where a large teddy bear sat. The Knoxville Choral Society (KCS) stood up high in the background and the KSO took the stage one by one until all were seated. There was not an empty seat left in the auditorium and the holiday spirit filled the air. The magnificent Maestro Lucas Richman conducted the Orchestra.

First up was a Christmas Medley (Deck the Halls, Joy to the World) by the University of Tennessee Herald Trumpets. These young musicians were amazing and soon the audience was treated the angelic sounds of the KCS. This group is legendary and it was certainly easy to see and hear why. They performed several holiday hits, Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Hark the Herald, Silent Night and more. The blue screen backdrop set displayed beautiful stars during Silent Night.

Next, Santa Claus and his helpers joined the musicians on stage for some upbeat and fun banter and music. This was followed with the Boar’s Head Carol (15th Century) with Santa, the University of Tennessee Herald Trumpets, and the KCS. They then continued with the lovely Coventry Carol (16th Century). Audiences had a treat when the Church Street United Methodist Treble Choir performed Hodie Christus natus est (spiritual classic celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ). The Choir also performed the Wexford Carol and the Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, where they were joined by the KCS.

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The flawless performance of the 11 dancers from the Go! Contemporary Dance Works was incredible to behold. The costumes were quite elegant, colored gold with a touch of red. To close out the first act, the audience was encouraged to stand up and sing along during the song Hallejuah Chorus.

Not only is Maestro Lucas Richman an impeccable conductor but he is a perfect host. As the second act began, he told audience members a brief history of the story of Hanukkah which led to the majestic song Hanukkah Festival Overture. The next piece was An English Christmas. Once again, the incredibly talented dancers returned to the stage as well as a theatrical production of an English Christmas, complete with detailed costumes and a Christmas Medley with songs such as; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Holly and the Ivy and Christmas is Coming.

Pastime with Good Company was written by King Henry VIII in the beginning of the 16th century and is also known as “The King’s Ballad”. The song was performed by the passionate Webb Madrigal Singers who also performed The Holly She Bears a Berry. The University of Tennessee Herald Trumpets returned with Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas. ‘Tis the Time of Yuletide Glee was a spirited and magnificent song.

One of the many parts of the show that could easily put someone in the holiday spirit (if they weren’t already) is the Christmas Sing-Along with the KCS and Church Street Treble Choir. Audiences stood up and sang such holiday favorites as, Joy to the World, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Gloria, The First Noel, and Deck the Halls.

The concert concluded with the entire cast of musicians, singers and dancers, as well as Mr. Claus on stage during the final two songs, God Bless Us Everyone and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

The many people behind the scenes did an incredible job of putting this wonderful holiday event together. Everyone gave stellar performances and left the audience filled with the holiday spirit.

The KSO has contributed to the cultural life in East Tennessee since 1935 as the oldest continually operating orchestra. Under the leadership of Lucas Richman, the orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs more than 250 programs throughout East Tennessee each season, including non-traditional places like hospitals, school classrooms, nursing homes, city parks and churches in addition to the concert hall. The KSO reaches more than 200,000 people throughout the region each year. More information about the KSO including the calendar of events can be found at www.knoxvillesymphony.com. Follow @knoxsymphony on Twitter and Like KSO on Facebook.

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