ORLANDO — Tradition is a key word this time of year, when late November is filled with events that have been held around this time for decades, meant to usher area residents and visitors into the Christmas spirit.
The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra did just that on Saturday, when they used the final weekend in November to bring audiences Home for the Holidays.
The OPO’s annual holiday concert, held at the Bob Carr Theater, attracted a large crowd, many of them festively dressed, for a concert that ranged from holiday favorites (“Jingle Bells,” “O, Holy Night”) to some new songs to the OPO’s holiday repertoire, including “Cradle Hymn” by Kim Andre Arneson.
Albert George Schram, the conductor of the program, said he thought this was a beautiful hymn that their audience would appreciate.
“Sit back,” he told the audience, “and let us touch your heart.”
There were plenty of guest appearances during the afternoon and evening concerts, including the Holiday Singers, the Opera Orlando Youth Company, and the Celebration Ringers, part of the music ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park.
There were also solo vocal performances by Marsaisa Byrd, and the accompaniment of bagpipers Reginald Lyle and David Enzfelder — everything, Schram noted, for the ideal holiday concert.
“Welcome to this annual tradition,” Schram told the Bob Carr audience at the start of the afternoon performance. “The holiday season wouldn’t be the same without your Orlando Philharmonic.”
Later, Schram thanked the audience for coming to the concert and taking part in their joyful celebration of the holidays.
“How grateful I am that all of you are here and the orchestra is playing so well, giving us a nice concert,” Schram said.
The stage was festively decorated with a brightly light Christmas tree, and poinsettias and holiday lights along the front of the stage. Schram’s selections ranged from “We Need a Little Christmas,” the holiday song taken from the Broadway musical “Mame,” to more traditional fare like “We Three Kings,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
They also paid tribute to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah with the song “This is Chanukah,” and introduced some songs new to their playlist, including “Highland Cathedral.”
“We have a repertoire that I think you will enjoy,” Scram said, “but some you might not be familiar with.”
That included as well “Stella Natalis” by Karl Jenkins, which focuses on the Christian message of peace and goodwill to mankind through the melodies of “Wintertide” and “Sleep, Child of Winter.”
“Why don’t we make some music for this celebration,” Schram said.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..