Fox Valley Symphony returns to Neenah with Holiday Pops

November 4, 2008

The Fox Valley Symphony (FVS) returns to its roots December 4 with a special Holiday Pops concert at Pickard Auditorium in Neenah.

Featuring the sounds of the season, Holiday Pops is designed with families in mind and includes activities before the concert, such as an instrument petting zoo where children can touch and hold a variety of instruments. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be in attendance.

The concert features the FVS performing an encore of Maury Laws’ “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” as well as pieces performed with the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and Fox Valley Horns.

“We’re excited to be going to Neenah and performing this family-friendly concert. It has something for everyone and will get you in the mood for the holidays,” said FVS Executive Director Marta Weldon.

Before the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center opened in 2002, the FVS played the majority of their concerts at Pickard and Weldon said the Holiday Pops concert pays tribute to that tradition.

The night’s program features a special version of that holiday favorite -- “The Nutcracker.” The FVS will play segments from the Tchaikovsky version while the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble will play segments from Duke Ellington’s take on the piece.

“The Ellington adaptation of the selections from ‘The Nutcracker’ is one of the great hidden gems of American music. He was a great genius,” said FVS Music Director Brian Groner. “While it is wonderful to listen to the music that Tchaikovsky wrote, which has become a central part of our holiday tradition, by putting both ‘Nutcrackers’ on this concert we may have the best of both worlds.”

Fred Sturm, director of jazz and improvisational music at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, said the last time a symphony orchestra and jazz band shared the same stage to perform “The Nutcracker” was in 2001 when the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra teamed up.

“Audiences that love the Sugar-Plum Fairy will no doubt enjoy Ellington’s rendition of the same, humorously titled Sugar Rum Cherry,” Sturm said. “Regardless of whether your tastes lean toward classical music or jazz, this program will ring your holiday bells.”

Fox Valley Horns will share the stage with the FVS to perform Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” “I don’t know if this has ever been done before,” said Don Krause of Fox Valley Horns.

Groner is excited about the event’s finale. “The sheer energy produced by this many horns on stage is tremendous. When they join us in performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, it will be an amazing conclusion to our concert, which is the official start of the Valley’s holiday season,” he said.

Adult tickets are $20 and student tickets are $10. A family package, including two adult tickets and up to four student tickets, is available for $55. Contact the FVS office at 920-968-0300 for Holiday Pops tickets. They will also be available at the door.

The Holiday Pops concert is the opening event of Neenah’s Community Christmas Celebration, sponsored by Future Neenah Inc. Other events include the live mannequin display in downtown Neenah on Friday evening and the Community Christmas Event on Saturday, featuring breakfast with Santa, the Rudolf Run, live reindeer and events at Shattuck Park, the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum and other locations in downtown Neenah.

“This is the third year Future Neenah and the Fox Valley Symphony has had the opportunity to collaborate and bring the Holiday Pops concert to Pickard Auditorium and the community is a great benefactor of this partnership,” said Future Neenah Executive Director Karen Harkness.

Community First Credit Union is the Angel Sponsor for Holiday Pops. Other sponsors include: Heid Music, DiRenzo & Bomier Law Firm, Ameriprise Financial, Associated Bank, Bergstrom Automotive, Legacy Private Trust Co., Town & Country, Chase, Time Warner Cable, DMI Interactive, WHBY, WBAY TV and Wisconsin Public Radio. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is the season underwriter.

The Fox Valley Symphony’s mission is to enrich and nurture the human spirit through symphonic music and educational opportunities than enhance the cultural development of our community. In addition to our corporate benefactors, the FVS season is sponsored in part by funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and by grants from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The FVS sponsors two youth orchestras, the Youth Symphony and Philharmonia Strings, who perform fall and spring concerts. In addition to the season concert series, the orchestra performs an education concert for students enrolled in the Partners in Education program. For more information, please visit the FVS online at

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