by Emmy Hensley
“Not only is it nice to be back with one of the world’s greatest orchestras, but it also happens to be family because I’ve worked with them for so long,” said conductor Brett Mitchell, who will be leading The Cleveland Orchestra in their upcoming holiday concerts. “You get the best of both worlds — the best possible artistic outcomes featuring these amazing musicians, but also friends and family.”
Holiday Concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus will run from December 8 through 18 at Severance Music Center. Program highlights include selections from The Nutcracker, pieces featuring the Chorus and soprano Mikaela Bennett, audience sing-alongs, and the world premiere of “White Christmas,” arranged by Matthew Jackfert. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Each concert will begin with O Come All Ye Faithful. “It starts in almost darkness with just the men in the chorus, and we add everybody slowly but surely,” Mitchell explained. “By the end of the piece, the whole stage and the whole hall are completely lit up. For as many dozens of times I’ve conducted this arrangement, I get goosebumps just talking about it.”
Though the musical aspects of the program alone are magical, Mitchell emphasized that the audience experience and interaction is pivotal. “The simple act of coming to a concert is already kind of embodying that communal spirit, and that’s so special. But then, to have everybody not only with us in the hall but also singing the same carols together — that’s maybe my favorite tradition of all on these programs.”
Mitchell added that it’s not just the audience and the chorus who will be singing. “All you have to do is look up at the orchestra, and you’ll see plenty of musicians singing along with these carols. And you’ll see me singing along too. I’m not just up there mouthing the words — the front stands can tell you that I’m really singing. I do it, not because people need to hear my voice, but for the same reason that everybody else sings along, which is to be a part of this community.
Mitchell elaborated on the importance of making the concerts memorable for every listener. “In many ways, these are the most important performances that we do all year because we’re able to engage people who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be joining us,” Mitchell explained. “Everybody has their own holiday traditions, and for many people, The Cleveland Orchestra Holiday Concerts are a part of that.”
Each year, a certain man in a red suit pays a visit to Severance. One of the communal experiences the audience can take part in is the opportunity to ask Santa a question. Prior to the concert, listeners can write a question on a piece of paper for him to answer. After the intermission, Mitchell will return to the stage with Santa and ask him the questions from the audience.
“Santa always has funny things to say to the kids and the adults,” Mitchell said, chuckling. “I’m able to look out at the audience and see people with tears in their eyes because they are laughing so hard — and I’m talking about 8-year-olds and 78-year-olds. The purpose of these programs is to bring joy to people’s lives at this time of year. Hearing and feeling 2,000 people laugh together is as good as it gets.”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com December 6, 2022.
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