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The Grinch tried to steal Christmas in Salisbury on Saturday night, December 17, but the Salisbury Symphony, along with the Salisbury-Rowan Schools' All-County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus and the Salisbury Youth Orchestra, all under the direction of Music Director David Hagy, were successful in keeping the Christmas spirit alive and well.
This holiday concert opened with orchestra playing "Deck the Halls," as arranged by Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller. This is a non-traditional but nonetheless pleasing rendition.
No Christmas is complete without Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. This one-act from 1951 was the first opera ever to be commissioned for television. The orchestra played three selections: Prelude, Entrance of the Three Kings March, and Dance.
As Hanukkah is also celebrated at this time of year, the orchestra performed Lucas Richman's "Hanukkah Festival" Overture. Richman is presently Music Director and Conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as well as a composer dedicated to bringing music to young people. This is a rousing piece based on the traditional tunes of the Jewish holiday, and the orchestra danced its way through it with all the festivity of this very important celebration.
The first half of the program closed with Leroy Anderson's "Sleighride." All that was missing was the snow. Principal Trumpeter Greg Hall's whinny was as good as any horse can do.
The Salisbury Youth Orchestra joined the main orchestra to play "The Christmas Song," perhaps better known as "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...." These young people played enthusiastically along with their more experienced counterparts and mentors.
Then "The Grinch" stole the show. Turning over the podium to SYO Conductor Matthew Troy, Maestro Hagy made a very convincing Grinch. Musical Interludes were provided by the All-County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus, a group of approximately 150 boys and girls representing more than 20 different schools. Many were decked out in colorful holiday regalia, with their hair piled high in Grinch fashion. Their music teachers are to be commended on the fine job they did in coaching and encouraging these young singers. In the end, the Grinch was redeemed and saved the holiday. Christmas carol sing-alongs are always a favorite with audiences, and this concert was no exception. Maestro Hagy led both orchestras, the chorus, and the audience of close to 1,000 strong in a rousing medley of favorite tunes and carols. Everyone entered into the holiday spirit with great gusto.
Peter Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is a perennial Christmas favorite. The "Waltz of the Snowflakes" is the only part of this ballet that employs chorus, and the Fifth Grade Honors Chorus very ably backed up the orchestra in this performance.
As an encore, the symphony presented Chip Davis' arrangement of "Stille Nacht." The opening solo by Principal Cellist Anne Sellitti, playing her green, Grinch-bedecked cello, was tender and passionate. She was then joined by the rest of the orchestra to conclude a very satisfying and audience-pleasing concert.