JANESVILLE—Classical, jazz, four-part harmony, a tenor soloist and secular and religious holiday music.
That’s a lot of for one concert, but it’s a musical lineup that traditionally has worked well for the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra.
On Thursday, Dec. 13, and Sunday, Dec. 16, BJSO will host its annual holiday concerts in Beloit and Janesville, respectively. And once again, the shows will feature the sounds of the Badger Chordhawks Chorus, an all-male a cappella vocal ensemble.
And yes, Santa Claus also will appear at both shows.
Beloit Janesville Symphony conductor Rob Tomaro said he is pleased to be working with the Chordhawks again.
“The Badger Chordhawks are always just fabulous. They’re real crowd pleasers,” he said. “They’ll be doing some favorites and some new works. They bring a lot of depth to what they do.”
Chordhawks Director Christopher Smith also serves as music director for several church choirs, and he is a marvelous tenor in his own right, Tomaro said.
Smith is a classically-trained tenor with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He also has performed a variety of roles with opera companies and symphony orchestras, according to biographical information on the Rock Prairie Presbyterian Church website. Smith serves as music director for the church.
During the upcoming BJSO shows, Smith will perform “Oh, Holy Night” as a soloist with the orchestra.
And the rest of the show?
“We’re going to be doing many of the things people expect—‘Sleigh Ride,’ ‘Christmas Festival,’ and ‘Christmas at the Movies,’” Tomaro said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The audience can expect something new from Tomaro, who also is a composer and a jazz-rock guitarist. He has put together a new arrangement that combines “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings.”
Tomaro described the piece as a “kind of jazz-rock mix that’s in the style of the Brian Setzer Orchestra.”
“All pops concerts are designed to reach out to new audiences, to do things that are fun,” he said. “They take what is perceived as stuffiness out of classical music. It’s light, frothy entertainment, and it’s a lot of fun.”
The orchestra’s Fourth of July concerts are a good example, as one classical piece gets slipped into the mix each summer, Tomaro said.
This year’s holiday concert in Beloit will offer another chance to connect with the orchestra. The concert, a “pay-what-you-can” affair, will be a warm-up for Sunday’s show in Janesville.
“It will be a final dress rehearsal, so we might be stopping here and there,” Tomaro said.
Tomaro said he loves attending the rehearsals of other orchestras to see how the music takes shape. For students of music, such an event provides an opportunity to see what goes on in a professional setting, he said.
“It’s wonderful to see the process,” Tomaro said.