Christopher Koch, music director for the Juneau Symphony, leads the symphony’s string section through rehearsal ahead of Juneau Symphony’s Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Christopher Koch, music director for the Juneau Symphony, leads the symphony’s string section through rehearsal ahead of Juneau Symphony’s Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Symphony presents 3rd annual Holiday Cheer

“It brings us together for all the right reasons at the holiday season.”

Former Juneau Mayor Sally Smith is returning as emcee for the Juneau Symphony’s third annual Holiday Cheer concert, which Smith said is a role that involves a lot more than simply telling the audience what song is next.

“They have a program for that,” Smith said. “The fun part about being the emcee with anything is the ability to share perspective. It’s helping to fuse the audience with the presenters and when we fuse they aren’t just passive listeners, they become engaged in a program, that’s my task is to help engage the audience with the musicians.”

Holiday Cheer is back at Thunder Mountain High School this weekend for performances at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday with tickets running $45 for general admission and $20 for youth/students. Originally starting as a livestream from the State Museum Atrium, this marks the event’s second in-person performance.

Returning for this year’s concert will feature performances by the Juneau Symphony who will be joined by the Sitka Holiday Brass, as well as performances from vocal chamber ensemble Vox Borealis, directed by Sara Radke Brown. Juneau Symphony director Christoper Koch said that while much of the formatting will be similar to previous years, they are welcoming some additional guest artists to the lineup.

Soloist Christine Wick sings during rehearsal for Juneau Symphony’s Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Soloist Christine Wick sings during rehearsal for Juneau Symphony’s Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“We will have two vocal soloists joining us with the string ensemble for some selections from Handel’s Messiah, soprano Christine Wick and tenor Steven Arends,” Koch said. “We also have dancers from Juneau Dance Theatre joining us for one movement from ‘The Nutcracker,’ so that’ll be an extra little surprise for our audience.”

According to Koch, this year’s concert will feature a wide variety of music ranging from traditional holiday songs that everyone knows, along with some that might not be as recognizable. Roger Schmidt , Sitka Holiday Brass director, who also plays with the Juneau Symphony, said part of the enjoyment for him is choosing new arrangements to share with audiences each year.

“Every concert has always featured different pieces, there’s over three centuries of music to draw from,” Schmidt said. “Christmas music is one of the most written for events that we celebrate as people, so the amount of music to choose from is infinite.”

Luis Cardenas Casillas, a member of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Holiday Brass, rehearses with the Juneau Symphony for the upcoming Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Luis Cardenas Casillas, a member of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Holiday Brass, rehearses with the Juneau Symphony for the upcoming Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Schmidt said one of the highlights that he personally is looking forward to is bringing audiences an arrangement from one of famed musician/composer Stan Kenton’s best-selling Christmas albums, along with excerpts from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which was written in the 1700s.

“I think there’s something for everybody, from adults to kids, serious classical music lovers, people that just want to have a light, fun concert, I think all of the music’s going to appeal and I think people will be surprised if they haven’t gone to one of these concerts just how exciting it is,” Schmidt said.

Percussionist Ed Littlefield prepares to strike a timpani during rehearsals for Juneau Symphony’s upcoming Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Percussionist Ed Littlefield prepares to strike a timpani during rehearsals for Juneau Symphony’s upcoming Holiday Cheer concert. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

According to Smith, Sunday’s performance is more focused on young people, with the Prelude Orchestra, consisting of third through eighth graders, performing in the high school lobby before the concert starts. Sunday will also offer photo opportunities with Santa Claus. In addition to her involvement as the emcee, Smith said she’s especially excited for the collaboration across the community.

“We’re going to have Juneau Dance Unlimited, we’re going to have the string section, we’re going to have the Sitka brass, which helps tie our whole region together, and this makes it not just about the community, but the region. It brings us all together for all the right reasons at the holiday season,” Smith said.

Know & Go

What: The Juneau Symphony’s Holiday Cheer Concert

When: Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.

Where: Thunder Mountain High School

Admission: $45 for general admission and $20 for youth/students

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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