Ernest Richardson, Steamboat Symphony Orchestra music director, said the holiday season offers inspiring, triumphant music. The annual holiday concert takes place at 
7 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra/Courtesy

Ernest Richardson, Steamboat Symphony Orchestra music director, said the holiday season offers inspiring, triumphant music. The annual holiday concert takes place at 7 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Strings Music Pavilion.

Steamboat Symphony Orchestra to welcome holiday season

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— In Ernest Richardson’s childhood, the holiday season meant concerts, preparations and re­­hearsals. It meant Mozart, Tch­­ai­­kov­­sky and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.”

It wasn’t until all of his orchestral concerts were finished that the Richardson family finally got their Christmas tree and went shopping for presents, sometimes only days before Dec. 25.

In Steamboat Springs, where he directs the Steamboat Sym­phony Orchestra in its 19th season, Richardson still thinks there’s nothing like a classical holiday concert to jump-start the spirit of the season.

“I’ve had people tell me after the (holiday) concert, ‘I just feel ready for Christmas, I’m ready for shopping,’” he said. “And I think that’s because there’s a strong community emphasis in the orchestra. They see it right there in front of them and that’s a very powerful thing to see.”

The annual Holiday Concert is at 7 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Sun­day at Strings Music Pavilion. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets are $10 for teens and free for children 12 and younger.

These will mark the first Steam­­boat Symphony Orchestra holiday concerts held in the Strings Music Pavilion, said Linda Hamlet, the orchestra’s board president. It’s an upgrade she’s looking forward to experiencing.

“It’s allowed us to bring our music to the audience at a different level,” Hamlet said.

She also anticipates the musical collaboration that will feature several young musicians on stage alongside the orchestra.

“This is such a special part of our community that we are able to bring these people together to collaborate with music,” she said.

The orchestra will kick off the concert with a classical first half, featuring the “Christmas Con­certo” by Arcangelo Corelli and Mozart’s “Haffner Symphony.”

The “Haffner Symphony” is not specifically a holiday piece, but Richardson said its exuberance fits the aura of holiday music.

In the second half, the seasonal features shine through, with selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” woven with recognizable melodies sparking visions of sugar plum fairies.

As in previous years, children from the audience will be invited on stage to play hand instruments in the familiar “Sleigh Ride” tune and a Christmas carol audience sing-a-long.

Also in the second half, the orchestra will feature several youth violinists in a version of “Green­­sleeves” arranged by Richardson himself.

Richardson said Steamboat Springs offers the perfect backdrop for holiday music, where one simply can look out a window to experience a winter wonderland.

“It’s just the music of the season is terrific,” he said. “Whether it’s snow, the manger, or whatever it is people are singing about — ‘Oh, the weather outside is frightful’ — it’s just great stuff.

“And all those images, imagining people huddled together, getting on a sled, and you can actually do that out here.”

This year, Richardson knows it may be a little more difficult for some to get into the holiday spirit. With unemployment numbers still high and residents struggling through a recession, Richardson thinks it’s even more important for people to experience music.

“This year it might play an even more pivotal role,” Richardson said. “Maybe this year, it’s not just icing on the cake. Maybe it’s to lift people into a happier place, because that’s what music does.”

“We have to feed the soul. It’s arguably even as important as feeding the body.”

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