The Houston Symphony Chorus is participating in three festive concerts in December, from joining internationally renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli in Concert at the Toyota Center to annual performances of Very Merry Pops and Handel’s “Messiah” at Jones Hall.
What makes holiday concerts so merry and bright? Read on to hear from Houston Symphony Chorus members!
Which concert are you most looking forward to participating in this December?
“Very Merry Pops! I love seeing generations of families attending together—all dressed up for the occasion. The perfect way to introduce children to the magic of a live symphony performance.” —Julia FitzGerald, alto
“I love singing Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime. The tradition is so powerful, and the music is absolutely gorgeous! This work is both challenging and fun to prepare and perform.” —Paul Dabney, bass
“Andrea Bocelli. I’ve had the great pleasure to be included in his concerts several times and they are one of the most exciting programs I’ve experienced! The Toyota Center is an amazing venue, and coupled with Andrea Bocelli’s talent, it makes for an amazing concert experience!” —Jim Moore, tenor
“Very Merry Pops! It’s just plain fun.” —Chris Fair, bass
In past seasons, have you participated in performances with Andrea Bocelli, or in Very Merry Pops or Handel’s “Messiah”?
“Yes, both in Messiah and Very Merry Pops. I think one of my favorite experiences has been being selected to do the small ensemble of choristers to sing traditional Christmas carols in the lobby before the concert. Nothing like soaking up the beautiful decorations, all the people in their holiday finery, and just generally feeling the festive vibe while you serenade them. It’s kind of like reverse caroling—the people come to you!” —Sylvia J. Hysong, alto
“I’ve done all three. It’s very cool to be a part of different interpretations of Messiah by different conductors, some of whom have dedicated their careers to this masterwork.” —Kat White, alto
Do you have a favorite holiday song or piece? Why is it your favorite?
“My favorite Christmas standard is ‘Let It Snow!’ I love the jazz version, it brings to mind a cozy feeling with loved ones during the holidays.” —Elizabeth Kragas, soprano
“‘The Christmas Song’ by Nat King Cole. It was my dad’s favorite song growing up and it still brings me to tears when I hear it.” —Angela Bongat Seaman, soprano
“I really enjoy doing the Symphony’s version of ‘Feliz Navidad.’ It is just fun to sing, and the audience always loves it.” —Randy Boatright, tenor
“‘White Christmas’—always and forever my favorite! It reminds me of visiting my grandparents when I was younger, and it never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. I also strongly identify with dreaming of a white Christmas, having moved to Houston from my home state of Michigan!” —Brianna Fernandez, soprano
Outside of performing with the Symphony, do you have a personal holiday tradition that includes music?
“Caroling around town in small groups is my favorite holiday music tradition.” —Paul Dabney, bass
“I’ve played the piano since I was a little girl. My grandfather always loved to hear me play, and whenever we would gather together at Christmas, he would ask me to play Christmas carols that we could all sing along to. Often, their old piano would be out of tune, but it didn’t matter—we sang anyway.” —Liz Chavez, alto
What do you hope audiences take away from the December holiday performances? Anything they should keep an eye or ear out for?
“I hope that they take away the joy of the season, and a greater appreciation for the talents of the Houston Symphony and the Houston Symphony Chorus.” —Janwin Overstreet-Goode, alto
“I hope the audiences enjoy the concerts! The Chorus is made up of volunteers who just like to sing and get the Houston community in the holiday spirit.” —Alex Schaaf, tenor
“I would love to believe that we bring people together, that we bring hope that transcends all the trouble in the world, and that we share the power that music has to heal and inspire.” —Megan Henry, soprano