Tinsel tops and elf hats
I love Christmas. I even put my Christmas tree up before December this year (in my defence, my parents were visiting and it was a nice family thing to do). Last year, I missed the orchestra's Christmas concerts because I was on jury service, so I've been very much looking forward to being involved in them this year.
We've had a number of festive themed Christmas concerts already. Last Friday we performed Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ with our principal conductor, Thierry Fischer, a work which I have to say, I think is actually very affecting. Then on Wednesday of this week, we performed a perennial seasonal ballet suite, Swan Lake (though I have to admit, I don't find Swan Lake's plot to be very festive).
Now, however we are into the really fun stuff. Well, fun, if like me you love Christmassy things! It is time for the orchestra's annual, all singing, all sleigh bell jingling Family Christmas Extravaganzas!
Accompanied by the BBC National Chorus of Wales and various schools' choirs, this is a celebration of all your favourite Christmas pieces, with a healthy bit of audience participation thrown in.
After a busy winter season, it is lovely to see the orchestra let its hair down a bit. We take the Christmas concerts very seriously though. There is coordinated swaying in the strings (well Ania and I are swaying in a vaguely coordinated manner on Viola Desk 3), some light choreography in the brass and I can't really see what the wind are doing but I'm sure they are doing something.
From the horn section's Bah-Humbug hats, to the wind section's elf hats and the assortment of reindeer antlers, angel boppers, fairy lights, flashing earrings and santa hats sprinkled through the strings, this is truly the orchestra at its most festive. Special mention must go to Joe in the second violins for his unique ability to adorn himself in tinsel!
I have a few favourite pieces in the programme. I really like the opening number, the Joy To The World Fanfare. It is big and brassy (our bass trombonist, Darren Smith and new principal tuba, Dan Trodden, make a lethal bass brass combination) and is the sort of piece that makes me think of the opening scene of a Dickens Christmas story. Obviously not the Dickensian workhouse scenario - think more the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Bugler's Holiday is the annual moment of real glory for our trumpeters (forget Mahler 3 or any of the crazy natural trumpet stuff they do on a day to day basis!) - definitely one of the best of the Leroy Anderson pieces. Walking In The Air is my other favourite piece, although I didn't like watching The Snowman as a child because the melted snowman made me feel very sad - it always put me off my turkey.
A good festive sing-song is the perfect antidote to the mad dash before Christmas. I hope you can join us!
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales continues its season of Christmas concerts tonight (Friday 16 December) at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea at 7.30pm, and Saturday 17 at Sir Thomas Picton School, Haverfordwest, at 3pm and 7pm. Our evening concert at Haverfordwest has sold out, but other events have limited availability on the door. Please call 0800 052 1812 for more information.