Singing songs for the season with the Utah Symphony
December 6, 2011
Since the annual Deer Valley Music Festival has been such a success in the summertime, the Utah Symphony decided it was time to start a winter concert series in Park City.
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera CEO Melia Tourangeau said a Christmas-themed concert is the perfect way to get the snowball rolling.
"This is the first Winter Concert series the Utah Symphony is doing in Park City, and our intent is to make it an annual event," Tourangeau said during an interview with The Park Record. "The holidays are a great time for us serve the community in this way and we’re really excited about it."
The Utah Symphony will present its first holiday concert, conducted by assistant conductor Vladimir Kulenovic, in Park City on Friday, Dec. 9, in the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1250 Kearns Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $17 to $51 and can be purchased by calling (801) 355-ARTS or online at http://www.usuo.org . Santa Claus will make a special appearance.
The next concert in the series will be Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that will be performed at the Eccles Center on Thursday, Feb. 9.
"This is a trial year for us to see what kind of kind of response we get from the Park City Community," Tourangeau said. "It is important for us to have a year-round presence in Park City because we have a faithful audience up there during the summer. We need people to know we are the Utah Symphony, not the Salt Lake Symphony or the Ogden Symphony."
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The Dec. 9 concert will feature seasonal favorites such as "Winter Wonderland," "O Holy Night," "White Christmas," "Silver Bells" and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker."
"The concert is a real traditional holiday program," Tourangeau said. "We have four singers who are out of our Resident Artists program, which is like a fellowship program with the Utah Opera, who travel throughout the state and do 200 shows during the year."
The singers are soprano Jennie Litster, mezzo-soprano Sishel Claverie, tenor Andrew Penning and baritone John Buffett.
"They are all fabulous singers and will be singing traditional songs for the holidays that will get everyone in the spirit," she said.
Penning, who started the Utah Opera’s Young Artist program in September, said singing holiday songs and Christmas carols with the Utah Symphony is quite different from singing scenes from operas such as "The Ring" or "Rigoletto."
"This is a sort of concert that gives us singers the freedom to not sing as classically as we normally would if we were doing Wagner or Verdi," he said. "The pieces will be sung in ensemble by all of us, and we’ll switch off singing solo lines."
Singing Christmas songs was a tradition in Penning’s family while growing up in St. Paul, Minn.
"I remember my whole family going to church on Christmas Eve," he said. "We’re all sitting in the same pew my dad, a tenor, my mom, an opera chorus singer, and then me.
"We would sing the Christmas hymns and all the people would look around at us because we did something they would not normally hear in the middle of the congregation."
While it was enjoyable singing in church, Penning liked performing holiday-season operas as well.
"As a family, we would be involved in performances of Menotti’s ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors,’" he said. "We all sang together and really enjoyed that."
Penning knew he was going to be a singer and by the time he was 13, had already performed in a number of operas as a soprano.
"Since my parents are both singers, I grew up with singing around the house and they dragged me along to their opera and other music rehearsals," he said. "It gave me a lot of joy and was a very rewarding experience."
Penning’s favorite Christmas song is "O Holy Night."
"It’s just a beautiful piece," he said. "It’s tranquil, yet dramatic. It ends with a high B-flat, if you sing it in the right key, and it’s got a soaring melody."
Penning said all the carols and songs have a universal appeal that tie into every family’s traditions.
"They recognize the lyrics and the songs may have some significant meaning in their lives," he said. "They may remember something they did as a kid or with their parents. Holiday songs always make people think of family and all the blessed times they have had during the season."
The Utah Symphony will present its first holiday concert in Park City on Friday, Dec. 9, in the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1250 Kearns Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $17 to $51 and can be purchased by calling (801) 355-ARTS or online at http://www.usuo.org .