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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Clarion steps into the season

Annual Christmas concert promises to be creative

Clarion hits the Fox stage on Tuesday with its concert, “This Is What Christmas Sounds Like.”  Courtesy of Clarion (Courtesy of Clarion)
Clarion hits the Fox stage on Tuesday with its concert, “This Is What Christmas Sounds Like.” Courtesy of Clarion (Courtesy of Clarion)

Here’s all you need to know about Clarion’s musical attitude: Leader William Berry lists his titles as “composer, arranger and reindeer trainer.”

The word “irreverent” does not normally apply to large brass ensembles. Yet with Clarion the word floats right to the top, along with “creative” and “innovative.”

In its 18th Christmas concert, Clarion promises to deliver, among other things, “the wildest ‘Jingle Bells’ you will ever survive.”

“The lyrics advocate high speed and reckless behavior to pick up women,” said Berry. “So the only way to arrange it is like a white-knuckle ride.”

Berry says he is also introducing “Clarion’s First and Last Ever Clarion Holiday Singalong.”

“I really hate singalongs,” he said. “We don’t want to make it easy, so I’m going to ask the audience to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ and Clarion just might be playing something else. Either it will be total chaos or quite memorable. Or both.”

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, Clarion is dead serious about its music. Over almost two decades, this 12-piece brass ensemble has established itself as one of the region’s most refreshing classical ensembles, known nationwide for its brilliant arrangements.

Clarion’s annual Christmas concert has become a popular Spokane holiday tradition because of its ability to make familiar themes – the “Nutcracker,” for instance – sound jazzy and fresh.

On Tuesday, for instance, you can expect to hear “Tea for Tuba,” Clarion’s version of the “Nutcracker’s” Chinese Dance.

Berry (who is also a trumpeter for the Spokane Symphony) has established a national reputation as an arranger. The Canadian Brass, the world’s leading brass ensemble, has performed many of his Clarion Christmas arrangements in their own concerts.

If you’ve been to previous Clarion Christmas concerts, you should have a good idea of what to expect. Yet you can’t really know until you arrive at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

Clarion prides itself on producing a mostly new show every year. Berry said seven arrangements will be brand new – including “What Child Is This” and “Merry Christmas Darling” – with just a sprinkling of pieces from older shows.

And they will repeat nothing at all from last year’s ill-fated show, which had to be rescheduled because of a blizzard.

“This year, we may not have snow,” said Berry. “But we’ll have locusts.”

Probably not, but we had to ask the reindeer trainer: What about reindeer?

“That’s just the Christmas version of herding cats,” he said.

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