The Altoona Symphony Orchestra and guest performers lined up for this year's "Holiday Spectacular" concert promise to provide the local audience with one thing: the songs that are guaranteed to put them in the Christmas spirit.
This annual holiday concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and will be held in the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School auditorium with featured performances by the Blair Concert Chorale, The State College Choral Society and the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School String Ensemble.
The holiday program has become an important ritual that the ASO shares with its audience, said Maestra Teresa Cheung.
"It's not just about the music, it's almost like it's about the spirit," Cheung said. "It's about what we are as people and how we are as a community and how we are a family."
Though this holiday concert tends to give the audience the same feeling year after year, Cheung said when it comes to making the program, she always looks for new arrangements of twists on old favorites.
This year, familiar songs from movies like "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Home Alone" will be played, along with a selection of marches from different ethnic backgrounds, Cheung said. Along with some new tunes, she added that the ASO also looks forward to new collaborations with area singing and performance groups.
If you go
What: The Altoona Symphony Orchestra's "Holiday Spectacular," with the Blair Concert?Chorale, the State College Choral Society and the Hollidaysburg Are?Senior High?School String?Ensemble.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School auditorium
Tickets: $33 for adults and $13 for students with ID. They are available by calling the Mishler Theatre box office 944-9434 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or by visiting online at www.mishlertheatre.org.
"We're always looking for new ways of partnering," Cheung said. "I think that with each group we're coming into contact with, they offer something different sound-wise and energy-wise for our audience."
Jeffery L. Webb, the artistic director for the Blair Concert Chorale, said the group is excited to perform with the ASO again, as they did two years ago for the holiday concert. This year, the chorale will join the ASO on three pieces, including George Frideric Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Christmas Day" by Gustav Holst.
"We always look forward to being able to collaborate with them," he said.
Comprised of about 40 vocalists, the chorale rarely gets the chance to perform with a full orchestra like the ASO. They are usually accompanied by a piano or a small chamber orchestra, Webb said.
"It's always interesting to hear the different colors the orchestra can produce," he added. "Also, it raises our level a little bit. It's exciting for the singers."
The 45 students in the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School String Ensemble are also excited by the prospect of playing alongside the ASO, said orchestra director Stephanie Everett.
"This is a big opportunity for our students to play with a professional orchestra," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hopefully, it will give them a lot of confidence."
Everett said Cheung always does an excellent job of picking a program that will "put people in the holiday mood." The high school students had a good time learning their pieces, which includes "The Dargason," a movement from Holst's "St. Paul Suite."
Cheung also has been working personally with the students to get them ready for the concert. She said the kids will not only benefit from playing with the ASO, but that she and the musicians will get so much out of their "fresh energy."
"It's very exciting for both sides," she said. "I always think about how we are in the position to influence, in the long run, how these kids are going to feel about music making."
To fit the entire ASO and high school string ensemble together on one stage, Cheung and Everett also collaborated to hold the concert in the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School's newly renovated auditorium. Everett said she hopes to see the auditorium filled.
"It's going to be a fantastic show," she said. "There isn't anything like instrumental music to put you in the holiday mood."
Cheung said she hopes to provide "the perfect kickoff to Christmas," as many have called the concert in years past.
"I haven't taken a tally of it, but many people have told me the same thing," Cheung said. "They say, 'Unless I have done this, it doesn't feel like Christmas.'"
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.