Omaha Symphony Annual “Christmas Celebration”
December 11th, 2017
Image courtesy of Omaha Symphony
Omaha, NE—Omaha Symphony celebrates the holidays this week with their annual Physicians Mutual Omaha Symphony Christmas Celebration, conducted by Ernest Richardson and choreographed by Parker Esse. Each year, the Symphony puts on a show of seasonal favorites, like “O Holy Night,” “Be a Santa,” and “Sleigh Ride.” Not just a concert, the Christmas Celebration is a fully staged, scripted and choreographed spectacle.
“Rather than the audience coming in seeing a number—a traditional Christmas carol or tune just sung—you know, what’s called a park and bark, I create stories around each tune, so the audience gets taken in and sees the music with a new vision,” Esse said.
Though some songs return in the lineup, there’s something new every year. Esse designs every Christmas show from a new perspective.
“This is a process that is months long. We start having production meetings as early as January. Right after the holiday season is over, we connect on the phone and talk about what a successful, what we’d like to try differently and we start brainstorming about new ideas for the following year and then different songs are then taken away and re-orchestrated for our show. Because we’ll take a song like, let’s say “Jingle Bells,” and I want to jazz rendition of “Jingle Bells,” so we as a team start researching different versions of Jingle Bells, and then I also will connect with a dancer arranger who helps to orchestrate and open up the music specifically for dance, which is exactly what we’re doing this year. So tunes that you think, ‘Oh, I’ve always heard it this way,’ you’re going to hear it new and fresh with the symphony this year.”
Looking for a new angle for this year’s show, Esse’s attention turned to tap dancing.
“I love all mediums of dance, and we have an act one closer called “Be a Santa” that is a staple of the production each year. It does have tap, but I wanted to find another opportunity in the show to focus on tap, because it is a medium of dance that audiences really enjoy. I hired four spectacular male dancers that will raise the roof with their tapping, so it’s more to appeal to the audience, and I think tap is universal and everyone loves it, and we have a special treat for the audience this year.”
This performance brings dancers from New York to the Holland Performing Arts Center as well as returning Broadway performers, like Siri Howard and Richard Todd Adams. The concert will also feature Omaha’s Resonance Choir and new additions to the lineup, “Hot Chocolate” from The Polar Express and “Rudolph: The Real Story” about how one of the most beloved Christmas characters learns to fly.
According to Esse, the most important part of the Christmas Celebration is storytelling.
“Well, my goal and hope is that it’s a cohesive production where the movement, staging, choreography, acting is all musical. There’s a musicality to the way that I choreograph so that it’s a tight marriage between the musicians on stage and what’s being played out in the foreground, so when you’re watching the different numbers take place on stage, you’re going to feel like it’s one full vision as opposed to competing aspects of the orchestra playing up stage—they’re doing one thing and then you have something down stage that’s a distraction—that’s not the case. It works together. They all work together.”
There will be 10 performances of the Physicians Mutual Omaha Symphony Christmas Celebration starting this weekend, Dec. 9th at 2:00pm and 7:30pm and the 10th at 2:00 and 6:00pm. The concert will continue from the 14th to the 17th with both afternoon and evening performances. Preconcert entertainment will take place in the lobbies prior to each performance. New this year will be decorated lobbies that resemble a festive Alpine village with crafts for kids and hot chocolate and sweets for sale. For more information or tickets, visit OmahaSymphony.org.
“I hope people fill the seats, because they should. They should not miss this. This is Broadway caliber entertainment happening on this stage.”
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