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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Holiday Pops concert puts Santa in the conductor’s role

Symphony, Nakahara make room for the Big Man

The Big Man himself, Santa Claus, will hop onto the podium and conduct “Sleigh Ride,” in one of the many traditions surrounding the Spokane holiday staple, the Spokane Symphony’s Holiday Pops concert.

Yet little did we know what consternation Santa’s appearance causes resident conductor Morihiko Nakahara.

“It puts me in an awkward position,” said Nakahara, in a podcast discussion with Santa himself. “Usually what do I do? I end up being back in the percussion section and actually playing one of the instruments in the percussion section. As a conductor that’s the most nerve-wracking thing. We actually have to make a sound.”

Nakahara said he’s a lot more comfortable waving around the only instrument in the orchestra that doesn’t make a sound – the baton. He’ll get plenty of opportunity to do that in this annual celebration of Christmas carols, religious music, classical winter themes and pop-jazzy holiday music.

The unifying theme?

“It’s all about hope,” Nakahara said. “Renewing hope and celebrating life. It’s really the perfect season to reflect on those qualities.”

It’s a family concert, of course, but it’s also, in a way, a concert for the greater symphony family. The musicians of the orchestra will be joined by the Spokane Symphony Chorale under the direction of Julian Gomez Giraldo and the young singers of the Spokane Area Children’s Chorus under the direction of Kristina Ploeger. So when they all come together, it’ll be a cast of hundreds.

The concert begins with a jazzy medley on the theme of snow, incorporating “Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells.” Then they’ll turn to “A Feast of Carols,” incorporating some of the oldest and best-loved carols including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” and “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

The Chorale will take center stage for “Dormi, Jesu,” followed by a whimsical piece called “We Three Basses.”

And the orchestra will throw in some Tchaikovsky, but not the usual “Nutcracker.” It will play “Dance of the Tumblers” from “The Snow Maiden.”

The second half of the concert will range from “The Concert Suite from ‘The Polar Express,’ ” to John Rutter’s “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol,” to Gary Fry’s “The Twelfth Elf” and, of course, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

It will all come to a crescendo in the sing-along with a thousand-plus voices, doing a medley of familiar Christmas tunes.

You might want to warm up your vocal cords at intermission with some special Polar Bear Hot Chocolate. You’ll be singing “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and a lot of favorites in between.

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