Holiday spectacular: Tupelo Symphony Orchestra prepares for Christmas performance

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Steven Byess may have as much fun putting together the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas show as he does conducting it.
This year’s performance features the orchestra, the TSO Children’s Chorus and the Itawamba Community College Chorus, so Byess had fun picking pieces that play to all three ensembles’ strengths.
“It’s a puzzle, but it’s one of the most fun puzzles,” he said.
The orchestra has the honor, Byess said, of working with two excellent choruses.
The Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Monica Spencer, adds something special to the program.
“The Children’s Chorus is one of the most delightful aspects of hearing a Christmas program,” he said.
The ICC Chorus, under the direction of Karen Davis and Robert Taylor, is “an outstanding and exciting chorus,” Byess said.
The three groups led Byess to choose a mix of carols and fun holiday tunes.
The evening kicks off with “Glorious Sounds of Christmas,” a selection of Christmas folk songs from around the world, followed by “Carol of the Bells,” which is “very intense and exciting,” he said.
The Children’s Chorus will sing “What Child is This?” which Byess said was a perfect match between song and performer.
Another highlight is “White Christmas,” arranged by Robert Russell Bennett, who orchestrated many Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.
“He’s known for big, lush, beautiful arrangements,” Byess said.
An audience favorite is “A Musicological Journey Through Twelve Days of Christmas,” which will be performed again this year.
“It takes the ‘12 Days of Christmas,’ and each day is in the style of a different classical composer,” Byess said. “It goes in chronological order, so it goes from Gregorian chants to 19th century drumming.”
The conductor guarantees a memorable evening.
“It’s virtually impossible to attend this concert and not be uplifted,” Byess said. “It’s always a huge, spectacular cavalcade of holiday fun.”
And if you like what you hear, the orchestra is ready to make your ears even happier.
“We are always prepared for an encore,” he said. “If the audience is particularly enthusiastic, we are prepared.”

On Stage
WHAT: Christmas with the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, also featuring the TSO Children’s Chorus and Itawamba Community College Chorus

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Tupelo Civic Auditorium

COST: $25/adults, $10/students

INFO: (662) 842-8433 or

EXTRA: There will be a pre-concert dinner in the Link Centre’s reception hall at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Christmas dinner menu includes
apple pumpkin soup, beef rib roast au jus,
Yorkshire pudding, buttermilk rolls and coconut
cake. Dinner tickets are $35/person,
with wine available. Call (662) 690-4011 to
make reservations.

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