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Hays Symphony Brings Back Iconic Holiday Pops

Need a holly-jolly tune or two to kick off the winter season? The Hays Symphony is

bringing back its signature set of classic carols. With no shortage of merriment, the musicians are excited to promote the Hays Symphony’s free Holiday Pops Concert, a high-spirited event which will be held on Saturday, December 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the FHSU Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

“This December, we are bringing back our Holiday Pops concert,” said Brian Buckstead, director of the Hays Symphony. “We’re featuring some of your favorite sounds of the season—and a few musical surprises as well.”

Included in the festive concert repertoire are arrangements of beloved favorites like jazzy “White Christmas,” sweeping “Greensleeves,” and exuberant “Carol of the Bells.” What makes the line-up especially unique is Director Buckstead’s decision to sprinkle in melodies from Robert Wendel’s A Classical Christmas Suite throughout the program. With their dance-like strings and playful winds, Wendel’s orchestral takes on “We Three Kings,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Little Drummer Boy” are sure to charm and delight listeners of all ages.

When asked about what prompted the decision to bring back the Holiday Pops concert, Director Buckstead responded with enthusiasm. "This is a very enjoyable concert, and one that I would certainly like to do every year. It's all about logistical concerns. Every two years, the Hays Symphony plays in the Cathedral Christmas Concert, and this happens to be our year off." He adds, "Also, with so many events going on in early December, it can be a challenge to find an available space and time. Saturday night was available, so we took it!"

Theme is another point that Director Buckstead wanted concert attendees to know more about. "For most concerts, I start with a general theme, which gets honed over time. A holiday pops concert comes pre-themed in a sense, so it's a matter of refining that theme."

The Director continues, "This was not an idea I had early on, but as I was deciding on repertoire, I noticed a recurring theme of musical pastiche. This is when a piece of music by one composer imitates the style of another composer. The Classical Christmas Suite by Robert Wendel is a perfect example of this. Its four movements brilliantly blend famous symphonic works with four famous Christmas tunes."

He explains further by breaking down a few of the pieces on the program. "The first piece, 'Overture to a Merry Christmas,' is Mozart's Marriage of Figaro meets 'Joy to the World.' The second piece, 'We Three Kings (So Unfinished Are...),' is based on Schubert's famous Unfinished Symphony. The third piece, 'Jingle Fourth,' turns Mahler's Fourth Symphony into 'Jingle Bells.' We will close out the concert with a bang with 'Little Bolero Boy,' which is 'The Little Drummer Boy' a la Maurice Ravel."

Director Buckstead points to one other piece on the program which also fits within the idea of musical pastiche. "A Klezmer Nutcracker is a very clever rethinking of three movements of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece. Here, composer Steve Cohen infuses 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,' 'Arabian Dance,' and 'Trepak' with Klezmer music, which is the folk music of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe."

After the concert, attendees are invited to enjoy desserts and mingle with the musicians at the post-concert reception in the lobby. The evening’s dessert reception is sponsored by a generous donation from Astra Bank of Hays and catered by Gella’s.

Last year, the Hays Symphony rang in the season with the FHSU choir ensembles at the Department of Music and Theatre’s annual Cathedral Christmas Concert held in Victoria, Kansas. From sweet and cheery arrangements to soulful and sentimental pieces, the orchestra spotlighted its talented players at this evening of ancient airs and carols.

Whether celebrating musical joy in a cathedral or an auditorium, it is around this chilly time of year that the Hays Symphony’s musicians are reminded of how fortunate they are to be providing a wide variety of live music for the region. Thanks to the orchestra’s supporters, which are listed on the symphony’s website, the symphony can continue to offer its concerts free of charge. Along with the gift of music, the musicians send their best holiday wishes to the community.

Free tickets to the concert are available on the symphony’s website at Concert-goers can stay up to date with events and activities by following the Hays Symphony’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

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