Well. There was Beethoven. There was Tchaikovsky. There was little Liszt, a smattering of Bach, and a fair sprinkling of Christmas carols.
There was also Led Zepplin, electric guitars, killer drum solos, and enough pyrotechnics to satifsy a KISS fan.
The first hour and a half of the concert was the rock opera-esque Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Beautifully rendered, with amazing lighting, and even some snow. 🙂 To give you an idea of the music, here’s a snippet of review:
“The Silent Nutcracker” is a gentle instrumental on acoustic guitar. It’s followed by “A Mad Russian’s Christmas,” which combines Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” theme with original work from O’Neill and keyboardist Jon Oliva. The tune uses piano, synths and electric guitar to create a lively new twist on the theme. There’s a delicate rendition of “O Holy Night” and a classical guitar interpretation of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” plus a modern take on “O Holy Night” combined with “O Come All Ye Faithful.” A rockin’ version of “Good King Joy” flows smoothly from bits of “Joy to the World” into snippets of “Good King Wenceslas” and back again before leading into an original song about the Wise Men, which sounds like it was written with the stage in mind.
And then there’s Christmas Eve, Sarajevo. You’ve probably heard it on the radio the last Christmas or two, and if you have you’ve been amazed. It’s TSO’s arrangment of Carol of the Bells and it’s inspiring. Walking out of the stadium after the show, I was amused and pleased at the random bits of conversation I overhead from people who had come to the show literally because of just that song.
The most beauitful moment of the story-telling portion of the evening was the rendition of Old City Bar. The stage was mostly dark and cloudy from fog machines near the floor. A red light shone on a lone acoustic guitarist who sat off to the side, and at center stage, under a pale white light, was a man dressed as a bum. When he got to the end of the song, I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.
The second half of the concert was a free-for-all. Honestly, if more fun can be had in an evening….I don’t think I could handle it. They started with Flight of the Bumblebee – on electic guitars. Heeee. There was another Nutcracker medley, and wow, I’ve never headbanged to Tchaikovsky before. They did some amazing things with Beethoven, and a version of O Fortuna that was nothing short of orgasmic.
There was also some Led Zepplin, and a lot of Paul O’Neil’s original work, including a fantastic jazz-inspired Christmas carol, Electric Blue.
And then. The final encore. Anyone remember a Bugs Bunny cartoon with no dialogue, just Bugs, a mouse, and dueling pianos? The piece played in that cartoon was written by Franz Liszt, and it’s an incredibly technically demanding piece. And they played it. Complete with dueling pianos. And the aforementioned guitars, drums, and string section helping out. It started out as Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue, played on an organ…meandered through some jazz standards…took a swing through Beethoven…and ended in a musical masterpiece that brought the entire audience to its feet.
The orchestra leader made it a point to talk about the tech crew. What they did, how long it took them to do it, how integral they are to the show, and how we should all give them their own round of applause. Awesome. Stage techs never get enough credit.
The whole evening was beautiful. And wonderfully fun, made more so because it was shared with a dear friend. And above all…after hearing what I heard tonight, seeing what can be done with music by people who love, what vital, pulsating life can be breathed into an art…I’ve never been prouder to be a musician.
Speaking of musicians…during the final encore, I happened to glance down to the floor seating and saw a man enthusiastically conducting the musicians. This wasn’t some amatuer just keeping beat, I could tell. This was an actual condcutor. I pointed him out to Greg, and as I did so, it hit me: I recognized those hand motions, that style of conducting. And furthermore, even from the balcony, I recognized the back of that head. Dr Geroge! He was the choral conductor at APSU for a long time; he retired two years ago to help conduct the Nashville Symphony. Inspiring man. The sounds he could get from a choir…amazing.