Saint Joseph Symphony director Christopher Kelts knows how much the holidays mean to people. For his first holiday show with the symphony, he wants to make sure he nails it.
“This is usually the concert where a larger percentage of the audience has maybe never heard a live symphony orchestra before,” he said. “I love the possibility of making that connection and sort of creating a fan for life of symphonic music from our audience.”
Titled “Holiday Cheer,” the symphony will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Missouri Theater, 717 Edmond St.
The first symphony holiday performance since 2019, Kelts said he wanted to be sure to walk the line between the traditional expectations of the show and giving audiences something new.
“Planning a holiday concert, it’s actually a delicate balancing act,” he said. “It would be really easy for me to put together a concert (where) every piece has the same sort of thematic sound: sleigh bells, brass, jingle bells all the time. ... We’re able to offer a variety of music to an audience.”
That variety will include “A Christmas Festival Sleigh Ride,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Festive Sounds of Chanukah,” “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” “White Christmas” and a tribute to “Little Drummer Boy” writer and St. Joseph native, Katherine Kennicott Davis.
“She actually sort of went on to become this arranger and composer. And in the early 20th century, that’s kind of a big deal, because that was not a career path that was encouraged among women to do,” Kelts said.
As is tradition, the holiday show will conclude with a sing-along of songs like “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “The First Noel” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” mirroring the list sung annually at Westminster Abbey. It will be directed by Matthew Bobela.
“It should be a real immersive experience and (the audience should be) feeling very good. I think it’ll have all the parts of nostalgia and the holiday season, which is just the right recipe you want for a successful holiday concert,” Kelts said.
Because the musicians of the symphony have been putting in the hard work of rehearsing, Kelts said he wanted them to get their due with the pieces.
“We also want to highlight our musicians. We’ve got pieces that will include some of the orchestra and the orchestra at its full force,” he said.
Most of all, Kelts said he hopes the symphony’s holiday spirit is reflected in the energy the musicians put into the performance.
“It’s the season of playing this kind of music, and I think that they’ve made it come together quickly,” he said. “Our musicians in the Saint Joseph Symphony are such high caliber. They make it a low-stress situation.”
Tickets are $15 to $45. They are available online at www.saintjosephsymphony.org, by phone at 816-233-7701 or in person from the symphony office at 120 S. Eighth St.