Performance Holiday

First ever Philharmonic and Ballet “Nutcracker” and more

By Eric Street

Music lovers in the Dayton area must have been very, very good the past year, because Santa’s bag is overflowing with great events for them this holiday season. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance celebrates its first season following the merger of the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra with “A December to Remember.”

As part of the celebration, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance offers 14 production dates this December in downtown Dayton, and with them a $99 Arts Sampler offer that should make even Ebenezer Scrooge sit up and take notice. The deal: you can purchase six tickets to any DPAA performances for $99 (a minimum of three performances). There are no exclusions – all performances are available as part of this offer.

“A December to Remember” begins Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8 with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s Hometown Holiday at 8 p.m. in the Schuster Center. It’s a great way to start your holidays with a festive smorgasbord of Dayton talent. Hometown Holiday features the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Reynolds and assisted by top entertainers from the region in what may prove to be the most heart-warming event of the year. The program includes a bright and cheerful mix of favorite holiday orchestral favorites.

Joining the DPO are the Carillon Brass, the Kettering Children’s Choir, Harps of Grace, soprano Andrea Chenoweth-Wells, the Sinclair Concert Handbell Choir and the Holiday Pops Community Choir featuring nine area choirs, including St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, Normandy United Methodist, Schuster Choir, Kirkmont Presbyterian, Canaan Missionary Baptist, Tabernacle Baptist, members of the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus and the Kettering Children’s Choir.

“This program has been a real joy to put together, involving such a wide range of talent from around the Dayton community,” explains conductor Patrick Reynolds. “I first started planning for this concert back on one of those incredibly hot days we were experiencing last summer. It was over 100 degrees the day we had our first meeting with the Community Chorus directors in July. So, now that the weather has finally turned chilly and rehearsals have begun, we’re really getting into the spirit of this fabulous event.

There’s such a wonderful variety to be heard on the program: pop, jazz, gospel [and] classical arrangements of traditional holiday favorites; the festive sounds of brass and bells, our Community Chorus assembled just for these performances and, of course, a carol sing-along for the audience.

We’re thrilled to have our special guests with us, including the DPO’s own Carillon Brass, Kettering Children’s Choir, Harps of Grace, Andrea Chenoweth-Wells, soprano and the Sinclair Handbell Choir. They’ll all be together onstage with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Reynolds continues, “Each of the guests brings something special. It’s exciting to have Carillon Brass on the program. Their holiday music arrangements are really great, and some were even custom-made for Carillon Brass. ‘Wassail Wassail All over the Tuba’ features DPO principal tuba, Tim Northcut.

It is always a joy to work with Natalie DeHorn and the Kettering Children’s Choir. These talented young singers are absolutely professional to work with. In addition to their selections with the full orchestra, they’ll sing ‘Jingle Bell Swing’ with a DPO jazz combo.

To close the first half of the program, Kettering Children’s Choir, Harps of Grace and the DPO will combine to perform music from two scenes from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker – truly beautiful! The Harps of Grace is a 12-member harp ensemble led by DPO principal harpist, Leslie Stratton Norris.

Of course, Santa will make an appearance during the program, as well – and it is rumored that he’s bringing a few of his elves.

I’ve particularly enjoyed working with the members of our Community Chorus and their directors. These are people who come together because they share a joy for singing. Their enthusiasm is, as they say, infectious.

The big finale will bring together the DPO, Community Chorus and Sinclair Handbell Choir on stage, with Kettering Children’s Choir singing from the aisles of the audience, in Robert Russell Bennett’s Many Moods of Christmas — really brilliant arrangements of favorite carols.”

Hometown Holidays is part of DPO’s SuperPops Series. Tickets are available at or (888) 228-3630. Prices range from $21 to $76, with discounts available for students, seniors and groups.

Handel’s “Messiah”

Come celebrate the reason for the season with a rousing performance of Handel’s “Messiah” on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 N. Wilkinson St. DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman will lead the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Choir in the popular English-language oratorio.

Handel’s “Messiah,” based on the birth, passion and resurrection of Christ, gradually has become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in all of Western music. Now, for many, the holiday just doesn’t seem complete without hearing this uplifting sacred work in the rich surroundings of a traditional cathedral. Its text is drawn from the King James Bible and Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer.  (The wording differs slightly between the two.)

German-born George Frideric Handel wrote his renowned “Messiah” score in a mere 24 days.  His speed in composing the work has been hailed as a miracle by writers unaware that Handel characteristically wrote at such a blistering pace, sometimes polishing off a complete Italian opera in as little as two weeks. In speed of composition, he was not altogether different from his great contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach. Handel also saved himself some time through his habit of self-plagiarism, borrowing from earlier works he had previously composed to Italian texts.  For example, “His yoke is easy” and “And he shall purify” were drawn from his “Quel fior che alla’ ride,” while “Unto us a child is born” and “All we like sheep” are arranged from “Nò, di voi non vo’ fidarmi.”

Handel had become wealthy writing Italian operas for London, but his fortunes waned as the twilight of the Baroque loomed and the English nobility began to desert the opera and its Italian castrati – virtuoso singers who had undergone an operation as boys to preserve their high voices.  Bankrupt and forced to sell off his Rembrandts, Handel managed to work himself back to prosperity through “Messiah” and other oratorios that appealed to the rising English middle class. The castrati slowly vanished, the last one in the Sistine Chapel Choir dying in 1922, but the English passion for oratorio grew, inspiring other composers such as Felix Mendelssohn.  Over 270 years after its Dublin premiere, Handel’s “Messiah” shows no signs of losing its popularity.  Hallelujah!

Tickets are available at or (888) 228-3630. Ticket price is $28, with discounts available for students, seniors and groups.

Bach’s Lunch

Next in the holiday lineup is Bach’s Lunch at The Loft Theatre.  On Friday, Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. and noon the Carillon Brass will present Bach’s Lunch, a series of two free holiday concerts. All five members of the Carillon Brass are members of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.

The program features traditional holiday favorites, as well as other music for brass instruments, presented in a light-hearted, audience-friendly format. Members of the Carillon Brass are: Charles Pagnard, Trumpet; Alan Siebert, Trumpet; Aaron Brant, French Horn; Tim Anderson, Trombone; and Tim Northcut, Tuba.

Bach’s Lunch concerts have become a popular holiday tradition. Come early to ensure a good seat. Boston Stoker will provide complimentary coffee, and complimentary doughnuts will also be available at the 10:00 am concert. Boston’s Bistro & Pub will have box lunches available for purchase at the noon performance.

Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”

Dec. 14-16 and 21-23 will bring a much-anticipated partnership to the Schuster Center. For the first time in its history, Dayton Ballet will present its annual “Nutcracker” accompanied by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. “Nutcracker” performances are Friday through Sunday Dec. 14-16 and Friday through Sunday Dec. 21-23 in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center.

The “Nutcracker” ballet has long been an experience guaranteed to makes anyone’s holiday season complete. As such, it has been a regular feature of every Dayton Ballet season for many years. But now, for the first time ever, the full Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will join the Dayton Ballet to perform Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score – live. This timeless classic takes on new life this season.

It’s the story of a young girl, a Nutcracker Prince, and a victorious struggle over a sword-wielding Mouse King and his nefarious rodent minions. At one hour and forty-five minutes, it’s “family friendly” in length and chock full of unforgettable music and beautiful dance that should appeal to all ages.

“The Nutcracker,” which debuted in St. Petersburg in December 1892, is the last of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets, following his 1877 “Swan Lake” and 1890 “Sleeping Beauty.”  The composer would likely be astonished at the popularity it has achieved, particularly in the U.S. where a tradition of Christmastime televised performances began in the 1960s.

During its composition, Tchaikovsky chafed at the meticulous instructions of the choreographer, who even specified how many measures were to be allotted for each segment. He interrupted his work for nearly a month to travel to America for Carnegie Hall’s opening ceremonies, at which he conducted. On the way, he stopped in France, where he composed some of the score. His stay in Paris was doubly profitable since that is where he first encountered the recently-invented celeste, the distinctive tinkling keyboard instrument heard to great effect in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”  Sadly, Tchaikovsky died less than a year after the ballet’s premiere, still under the impression that the ballet was a failure.

Tickets are available at or (888) 228-3630. Prices range from $9 to $70, with discounts available for students, seniors and groups.

Viennafest: New Year’s Eve Celebration

Ring out the old year and ring in the new with style on Dec. 31 as Music Director Neal Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra present Viennafest: New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Schuster Center. The fun begins at 8 p.m.

Johann Strauss, Jr.’s “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” is, for all intents and purposes, Vienna’s unofficial anthem. You’ll want to be there as Neal Gittleman and the DPO surround it with a festive Viennese blend of dance music, light classics and songs.

The other two members of the newly formed Dayton Performing Arts Alliance – Dayton Ballet and Dayton Opera – will also play a role in the evening’s festivities. Don’t miss the New Year’s Eve Celebration, with the first collaboration of all three classic arts organizations, plus the much-anticipated announcement of the upcoming 2013-2014 DPAA season.

Tickets are available at or (888) 228-3630. Prices range from $12 to $65, with discounts available for students, seniors and groups.

Enjoy the holiday season with these special concerts and performances in Downtown Dayton.

Reach DCP freelance writer Eric Street at

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Eric Street is Professor of Music at UD with a doctorate from Indiana University. His Carnegie Hall debut led to performances in 36 countries on six continents. An opera lover, he’s taught Opera History and accompanied over two-dozen singers from the Metropolitan and NYC Opera. Reach him at

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