West Michigan Symphony presents a festive mix of orchestra and voice in its Dec. 11 Holiday Pops concert

Muskegon, Michigan, Nov. 9, 2015, —Friday, Dec. 11, Music Director Scott Speck conducts the West Michigan Symphony as it celebrates the season with a perennial favorite, the holiday pops concert. This year vocalists Diane Penning and Paul Langford and two local youth choirs will join the orchestra for a festive mix of holiday favorites.

Soprano Diane Penning returns to the Frauenthal stage after her 2009 performance with the symphony. A Grand Rapids native, Penning has performed many times with the West Michigan Symphony as well as a number of professional orchestras across Michigan and many other parts of the country. Penning prides herself in performances that share the artistry of music with audiences, while also delivering a hand-crafted experience where moods envelop the listener.

Penning will be joined by Chicago-based singer, arranger and keyboardist Paul Langford, who has arranged for numerous clients including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Walt Disney World. He often fills in for bands and orchestras in the Chicago area and has led everything from choirs to a cappella groups in America and around the world. Langford has performed with Grammy Award-winning musicians such as Celine Dion, David Foster and Yolanda Adams. Penning and Langford will also bring a musical program to The Block, the symphony’s smaller performance space in downtown Muskegon the following evening Saturday Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Also featured at the Dec. 11 concert will be the West Michigan Symphony Children’s Choir and the Mona Shores Singers. Now in their third year, the symphony’s Children’s Choir directed by Beth Slimko, will return to the Frauenthal stage after joining the orchestra for two performances last season. The Mona Shores Singers led by director Shawn Lawton will also add their voices to the holiday concert. Locally famous for their “Singing Christmas Tree”, the Mona Shores Choir is an internationally-recognized organization and the recipient of numerous awards and commendations.

Audiences who attend the holiday pops concert will enjoy a heartwarming mix of classic and modern holiday favorites, such as “Christmas Time is Here” written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi for the 1965 TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The version featured at the concert will be sung by Penning and the West Michigan Symphony Children’s Choir and is arranged by Paul Langford.

Of the Guaraldi piece, Speck remarked, “I remember hearing that song every year as a kid, watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ Back then I didn’t get it…I was into the joy, fun and spirit of giving associated with Christmas, but didn’t understand the poignancy and nostalgia of the holiday, which is expressed so well in this song.” He continued, “I think you need to be an adult and have some distance from the holidays of your youth, to fully get the impact of this children’s piece.”

Langford also created a special arrangement of “O Holy Night” especially for the Dec. 11 concert. Other holiday favorites of the evening will include pieces from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” “Ave Maria,” “Let it Snow,” “White Christmas” and the holiday staple, “Sleigh Ride.”

The 7:30 p.m. concert is at the Frauenthal Theatre, 425 W. Western Ave. Tickets are $22-$52; student tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling the WMS box office at 231.726.3231 x223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue, or online at westmichigansymphony.org.

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts