Music makes a Christmas season special. It sets up just the right mood -- uplifting and happy. West Suburban Symphony Orchestra, which has been serving the Hinsdale community since 1947, understands the importance of music and surrounds its audiences with beautiful Christmas concerts every year. Its annual holiday concert called "Merry" took place at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 10, at Hinsdale Central High School. As always, the concert hall was full. The audience was anticipating a Christmas miracle in the form of orchestral and choral music.
Maestro Peter Lipari, who greeted people at the door, was as always in a beautiful mood. He made everyone feel welcome and comfortable. The concert was about to start, but he tried to give the audience as much attention as he could even before it started. Energetic and happy, he appeared on the stage.
The orchestra started playing A Christmas Overture by British composer Nigel Hess. "The composer called and told me to have a good concert," noted Maestro Lipari talking about Hess, and the audience greeted his words with gratitude. The environment was homey and everyone -- including one-year-old and ninety-year-old audience members -- felt comfortable.
The first part of the concert presented only orchestral pieces, such as The Christmas Tree Suite by Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov, Stille Nacht by Austrian composer Franz Gruber arranged by Chip Davis and Calvin Custer, and The Story of Mumble Happy Fee by English film composer John Powell arranged by Jack Bullock. And even if some of the orchestral music seemed a little bit too quiet and calm, the energy and sense of humor of Maestro Lipari added active notes to that part of the concert. Known for his great interacting skills, Maestro Lipari found a way to conduct the orchestra, talk to the audience and even dance a little bit during the most energetic parts of the music. The orchestra was fabulous, the songs were touching, and the environment was fantastic.
During the intermission, Santa Claus greeted the children. They stood in a long line to tell him their Christmas wishes, and again Maestro Lipari was there giving the children candy and helping them to talk to Santa and take pictures with him in a timely manner. Everyone was happy -- the children, the parents, Mr. Lipari, his colleague assistant conductor Patrick Baker who helped him during the intermission, and even Santa. One boy asked him, "So, is it really true that you exist? I heard from other kids that you are not real." That boy left Santa with a firm conviction that Santa was real. Seems like Maestro Lipari knew how to make sure that the real Santa came to the concert!
During the second part of the concert West Suburban Orchestra and Singers performed together. This part of the concert highlighted Selections from Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Hallelujah and The Glory of the Lord, so loved by the audience, demonstrated the best qualities of the orchestra and, particularly, of the chorus that was directed by young and ambitious Maestro Baker. The chorus was standing in front of the stage, close to the audience, and was greeted by the audience with great enthusiasm. Baker and Lipari worked together in a brilliant manner that reflected on the quality of the music. Everyone enjoyed the performance -- the orchestra musicians, the choral singers, the audience, and, of course, the conductors.
Together, the orchestra and the chorus also presented White Christmas by Irving Berlin arranged by Roy Ringwald, O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam arranged by Arthur Harris, Christmas Day by Gustav Holst, and Music from Frozen by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez arranged by Bob Krogstad.
The audience members were singing some songs together with the chorus, enjoyed beautiful encore music, and after the event some of them shared their opinion of the concert with me.
Barbara: "It was wonderful, uplifting, made me feel that I am getting into the Christmas spirit. We came to see a friend who is the violinist. It was fun to see her! The conductor added the humor to the concert. You can see that he enjoyed it, and the musicians enjoyed it too! Money well spent!"
Dorothy: "Loved the show! I loved the medley of different songs, it helped me remember wonderful days from the past; made me think of all the relatives who passed away. The musicians and the conductor were very passionate, and it showed. I could see that!"
Tony: "We liked the chorus joining the orchestra, it was very nice!!!"
Jim: "Very exciting! I can't tell you what I enjoyed more -- I enjoyed the conductor as much as the music. You know that the conductor and the musicians appreciate you being here, which makes us feel welcome."
This concert program, which combined both old holiday songs and new Christmas compositions, was presented in a delightful and pleasant manner. The unique mix of choral and instrumental music satisfied various tastes and set the audience members in a sparkling Christmas mood, so needed during this holiday season to feel peaceful, happy and inspired.