UPDATE: Leave a comment by Sunday, December 28 to enter to win a pair of tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Tobin Center—more information below.
Over the weekend, I went to Holiday Pops with the San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center (earlier post) with my kids, G.N., my little girl who just turned five years old, and big brother F.T., who’s seven. Classical music is a holiday tradition for us. Earlier this season, we went to Ballet San Antonio‘s “The Nutcracker”; read more at “Our family tradition: Ballet San Antonio’s The Nutcracker”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, November 20, 2014, and F.T. and G.N.’s review of Nutcracker.
For the Nutcracker review, F.T. got top billing; this time, G.N.’s name is first because she had more to say. Before the show, I had learned from Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto that this year’s program would feature an orchestral medley of songs from Frozen. G.N. was so excited to hear these songs that she chose to wear the Elsa dress that she got for her birthday.
The Frozen medley included “Frozen Heart,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” “In Summer,” “Let It Go,” and “For the First Time in Forever.” Concertmaster Eric Gratz played the “Forever” melody on violin in such a heartbreakingly wistful way that it almost brought me to tears. During the medley, G.N. was on the edge of her seat, intensely focused on the music. She was swept away by the familiar melodies, but intrigued by the power of the live orchestra.
G.N. also enjoyed Feliz Navidad:
We learned that song at school!
Sebastien de la Cruz added distinctive mariachi vocals to Feliz Navidad. At only 12 years old, he has a big presence on stage. I am looking forward to watching his career blossom. His next project is El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, a mariachi opera by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia, which will premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago on March 28-29, 2015.
The Children’s Chorus of San Antonio sounded heavenly. The suite of songs from It’s a Wonderful Life (concluding with Auld Lang Syne) was especially moving. I felt so grateful for such beautiful music on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice. The chorus’s pure voices brought out the melancholy of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. (If you’re a White Christmas fan, you can also catch the musical at the Woodlawn Theatre through December 28.)
Holiday spirit was everywhere on stage. Giant snowflakes were projected on the orchestra shell, and the balconies were lit in festive green and red. A Christmas tree and poinsettias decorated the stage. The performers got creative: Santa hats on the double basses, twinkling lights on second violins’ chairs, blinking red noses on the wind players, and reindeer ears on the chorus members. For the second half, Fujimoto changed into red velvet trimmed with white fur.
Near the end of the program, there was a fun surprise: Santa Claus walking down the aisle towards the stage. G.N. shouted,
On stage, Santa bantered with Fujimoto and led the audience in a sing-along—F.T.’s favorite part of Holiday Pops. Whenever a symphony audience sings, it feels like you’re surrounded by Mastersingers.
As a family, we listen to classical music recordings at home and in the car. My car radio is usually tuned to KPAC 88.3 FM. Lately, we’ve been savoring our memories of The Nutcracker by listening to it on CD. But there’s something special about going to a live performance. I feel like I am with my tribe. It warms my heart to see families going to the symphony together. Knowing young musicians, like F.T.’s friends in YOSA, gives me hope that the Symphony will still be strong when my kids are grown up.
F.T. summed up Holiday Pops:
It was amazing.
I hope you will make Holiday Pops with the San Antonio Symphony part of your holiday traditions, too.
Read more about Holiday Pops:
- “Youthful talent fills symphony’s Holiday Pops”, David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News, December 19, 2014
- “Enjoy Holiday Pops With A Dash Of Mariachi Style”, Jack Morgan, Texas Public Radio, December 17, 2014
Looking ahead to 2015, there are more opportunities to enjoy beautiful music with the San Antonio Symphony. Ideas for date night:
- New Year’s Eve with Patricia Racette, the San Antonio Symphony, and OPERA San Antonio, on December 31, 2014 at the Tobin Center. Racette is an opera legend, but she’s also versatile. On New Year’s Eve, starting at 8 p.m., she’ll be performing pop classics from her Diva on Detour album. The Symphony will come on stage at 10 p.m. for a program of Strauss waltzes and more—a New Year’s tradition. The party will continue in the lobby with the Rick Cavender Band until past midnight. Update: For a chance to win two tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Tobin Center, please leave a comment by Sunday, December 28. I’ll randomly choose a winner and notify him or her on Monday, December 29.
- Salome, January 8-11 at the Tobin Center. As part of 2015’s Strauss Festival, the Symphony will perform in the OPERA San Antonio presentation the Richard Strauss opera, with Racette in the title role and several members of the Fantastic Mr. Fox cast (earlier post) returning in supporting roles. I would caution against bringing children to the show because the characters, as F.T. would say, “make bad choices”. I first listened to Salome as a teen; parents of teens should read a synopsis and use their best judgment.
For kids ages 4-11 (and up), the Symphony is offering a free family concert, YOSA SXS, on Sunday, January 18 at 3 p.m. at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium. It’s a free event with no advance tickets required—first come, first seated. Starting at 2 p.m., there will be activities in the lobby, including an instrument petting zoo where your kids can get their hands on the instruments; learn more in this earlier post.
Kids are also welcome at the Symphony’s DISCOVER programs, which feature a pre-concert lecture by Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing. A big screen above the stage will show close-ups of the conductor and the musicians. Read about last season’s DISCOVER concerts featuring Schubert and Dvorak (and F.T.’s review).
There are two DISCOVER events this spring:
- DISCOVER Till Eulenspiegel, Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 3 p.m. (and two Classics performances, January 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.), part of the Strauss Festival
- DISCOVER Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 3 p.m. (and two Classics performances, May 29 and 30 at 8 p.m.)
We like to get ready for DISCOVER concerts by listening to classic recordings of the pieces. Here are my CD recommendations for Strauss and Tchaikovsky (Van Cliburn, y’all!). These recordings are also available at the San Antonio Public Library.
School groups, including homeschoolers, can enjoy the Symphony’s Young People’s Concerts, including Romeo & Juliet on February 26 and March 3-4. The musicians’ skills will still be sharp from performing the score with Ballet San Antonio on February 13-15.
I hope that these ideas will inspire you to take your kids to hear live classical music soon. From G.N.’s and F.T.’s comments, you can tell that Holiday Pops made a big impression on them.
Update: To enter the giveaway for two tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Tobin Center, please leave a comment below, no later than Sunday, December 28. I will randomly pick a winner and notify him or her by email on Monday, December 29. Good luck!
Disclosure: The Symphony gave me two tickets to the New Year’s Eve event at the Tobin Center to give away to my readers.