Performing Arts

Fort Worth getting a holiday replacement

Ron Spigelman conducts the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra during their Home for the Holidays program at Bass Hall in 2011.
Ron Spigelman conducts the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra during their Home for the Holidays program at Bass Hall in 2011. Star-Telegram

If you listen closely during the holiday concert presented by the Symphony Musicians of Fort Worth at Will Rogers Auditorium on Nov. 27, you might hear something unexpected coming from the viola section.

“It sounds a little strange, but sometimes I like to sing the carols a little bit while I am doing the accompaniment,” confesses violist Dan Sigale. “I don’t sing very loud. But it’s fun to do that.”

A Fort Worth Family Christmas Concert is intended to be a replacement for Home for the Holidays, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s annual Thanksgiving-weekend pops concert at Bass Hall that has long served as a musical start to the Christmas season in Tarrant County. The Symphony Musicians are members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which has been on strike since Sept. 8. All concerts through the end of the year, including Home for the Holidays, have been canceled.

“We know from talking to audience members that they were disappointed that it has been canceled,” Sigale says.

The replacement concert, which will get just one performance, will follow the same basic concept as Home for the Holidays: orchestral treatments of traditional carols with a few classical nuggets, like Nutcracker Suite excerpts, and a couple of added attractions.

The concert, under the baton of former FWSO associate and principal pops conductor Ron Spigelman, will feature the Fort Worth premiere of The Night Before Christmas by Hollywood and Asian film composer Nathan Wang. And the orchestra will be joined by Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Breggett Rideau.

“It might seem like [traditional carols] are by-rote things to play, except for the fact that everybody out there knows these tunes intimately,” says Spigelman, who now lives in Tulsa, where he serves as the pops conductor for the Tulsa Symphony. “So when the inevitable comparison gets made by an audience member, you want yours to compare favorably.

“When we are doing the 25th performance of The Nutcracker, we have to remember that we still need to give them the best performance they are ever going to hear, not just some half-baked, halfhearted version of these classics. That is my mind set, always.”

Sigale adds that, while we all hear a lot of carols each Yuletide, the symphony musicians are not called upon to play them often.

“They’re fresh to us. We haven’t played them in a year,” says Sigale, an 18-year veteran of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. “So we certainly enjoy playing the music every year, and we are looking forward to playing these different arrangements.”

Those new arrangements are the result of the strike, which keeps the musicians from using the familiar versions from the orchestra’s library. Sigale says that finding alternate orchestrations has been “a bit of a challenge,” but the necessary sheet music has been found. And at least one past favorite remains.

“The one that I absolutely adore is [Fort Worth-based] Phil Kelly’s arrangement of Carol of the Bells,” says Spigelman, who has conducted several Home for Holidays concerts over the years. “It has kind of a John Williams, Hollywood sort of feel to it. And it is one of my favorite carols.”

Sigale also has his favorites, in addition to the ones he sings.

“Playing and listening to [Christmas music] are two different experiences,” he says. “So I can enjoy listening to The Nutcracker. When you are playing it, you are so focused on your own part, it’s nice to hear the other parts.”

Audiences also have come to expect two nonmusical highlights of the Home for the Holidays concert: an appearance by Santa and the “snow flurries” that fall from the Bass Hall ceiling. The famous visitor will make his way from the North Pole again this year, organizers say.

“Santa will absolutely make an appearance,” Sigale says. “In fact, there will be an opportunity to have your picture taken with St. Nick himself.”

As for any chance of freezing precipitation, well, “unfortunately, it will be a Southern Christmas,” Sigale says. “No snow.”

Patrons attending the concert are also invited to bring an unwrapped toy for donation to WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers project.

“We consider ourselves part of the community at large, and we look for ways to be able to help out,” Sigale says. “Santa’s Helpers seemed a natural fit.”

A Fort Worth Family Christmas Concert

  • 4 p.m. Nov. 27
  • Will Rogers Auditorium, Fort Worth
  • $5-$15, free age 2 and under
  • Tickets can be purchased through www.eventbrite.com or in the lobby beginning at 2:30 p.m. the day of the concert.
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