I recently spent a weekend with a good friend of mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her sister-in-law who plays violin with the Symphony gifted us with free tickets.
I have to tell you, we already had plans for another Christmas concert the next evening with two of our favorite artists, so although I thought the symphony would be a nice experience I wasn’t as excited about the evening as I could have been. Plus, although I love live performances of all kinds, I was under the mistaken impression that the performance might become a little dull after an hour or so just listening to musicians playing their instruments.
Boy, was I wrong. This was one of my favorite experiences this year. The show was kept lively by the variety of the performances. At various times, the symphony was joined by The Tulsa Chorus as well as children from both local choirs and students of stringed instruments. You could almost imagine seeing these child singers and musicians as part of the professional symphony itself once they become adults.
The symphony was lead by an enthusiastic and animated conductor who exerted tremendous physical energy in leading this group of musicians. He also added to the show by sharing a personal story as well as brief summaries of the pieces and composers of the music being performed. During the intermission, the teenage girl sitting next to me shared that the conductor was her stepfather which made me extremely glad that I had only made positive yet sincere comments about him while watching the show. It also kind of personalized the performance sitting next to the conductor’s stepdaughter as well as watching my friend’s sister-in-law play.
There were also appearances by Santa Claus, a local newscaster, and a baritone from the opera. The newscaster was the narrator for The Night Before Christmas and was accompanied by the symphony. The opera singer joined the local high school choir in a performance.
I thoroughly enjoyed the opening medley and the sing along at the end. Also enjoyed were contrasting performances of music from The Nutcracker Suite, both traditional and also a Duke Ellington version, which had a jazz spin. It amazes me the amount of creativity that goes into totally reinventing a well known classic song. A nice surprise was the Hanukkah medley as well as music from the movies It’s a Wonderful Life and the Polar Express.
A few asides of things that struck my fancy:
The piano player was named Lynden Meyer. Now isn’t that a great name for a pianist?!
I told my friend that if James Earl Jones could sing, he would sound just like the operatic baritone we heard. And he looked like him too!
The second half of the performance, the musicians wore their best Christmas gear. One of the violinists on the front row had a sweater with actual lights on it. It was fantastic!
All in all in it was a memorable experience.