Event Description

Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 4:00 pm
The Lensic

Our annual Christmas Pops concert features something for the entire family! Led by Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa, this exciting afternoon presents the full Symphony Orchestra performing holiday favorites such as excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Faith’s Brazilian Sleigh Bells, Berlin’s White Christmas … and much more. Plus, the Santa Fe Youth Symphony—under the direction of SFYS Conductor William Waag—joins us again for a special side by side performance. Bring the entire family and enjoy!

Be sure to join us for a FREE preview talk one hour before the concert.

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Concert Notes

Selections from The Nutcracker Suite
Born May 7, 1840, Votkinsk
Died November 6, 1893, St. Petersburg

Early in 1891, the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg approached Tchaikovsky with a commission for a new ballet. They caught him at a bad moment. At age 50, Tchaikovsky was assailed by worries that he had written himself out as a composer, and—to make matters worse—they proposed a story-line that the composer found unappealing: they wanted to create a ballet on the old E.T.A. Hoffmann tale Nussknacker und Mausekönig, but in a version that had been retold by Alexandre Dumas as Histoire d’un casse-noisette and then furthered modified by the choreographer Marius Petipa. This sort of Christmas fairy-tale full of imaginary creatures set in a confectionary dream-world of childhood fantasies left Tchaikovsky cold, but he accepted the commission and grudgingly began work.

White Christmas
Born May 11, 1888, Tyumen, Russia
Died September 22, 1989, New York City

Born in Russia, Israel Baline came to this country with his family at age five. He began writing songs as a boy and published his first at age nineteen. Four years later, under the name Irving Berlin, he achieved fame (and wealth) with the song Alexander’s Ragtime Band and went on to become one of the most characteristic American voices of the twentieth century: Estimates of the number of songs he wrote run as high as 1500. Many of these—songs like God Bless America, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and This Is the Army, Mr. Jones—have become part of the American national identity.

Suite from The Polar Express
Born March 26, 1950, New York City

In 1985 Chris van Allsburg published The Polar Express, a brief book about a boy who wishes to hang onto his belief in Santa Claus.  His faith is rewarded when the Polar Express pulls up in front of his house and whisks him off to the North Pole, where Santa selects him to receive the first gift of the holiday.  Much of the success of the book was due to its handsome illustrations, and The Polar Express won the 1986 Caldecott Medal as the outstanding children’s book of the previous year.

Sleigh Ride
Born June 29, 1908, Cambridge, MA
Died May 18, 1975, Westbury, CT

Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride has become an inescapable part of the way we observe Christmas, and its infectious rhythms and pleasing tunes can be heard in every shopping mall in this country during the holiday season. The story behind this famous music is an interesting one. During World War II, Anderson had served as a translator for the army in Iceland. There was a housing shortage after the war as veterans returned from overseas, and Anderson, his wife, and their infant daughter had to move into a cottage in Woodbury, Connecticut, that was owned by his mother-in-law.

Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Finale
Born December 8, 1865, Tavastahus, Finland
Died September 20, 1957, Järvenpää, Finland

Sibelius’ Second Symphony, composed in Italy in 1901 when the composer was 35, has become one of the most famous in the orchestral repertory. It is easily Sibelius’ most popular symphony, it is a favorite of audiences around the world, and it is a favorite of performers, too: over thirty recordings are currently available. This symphony’s popularity has been explained in various ways. Some sense the sunny atmosphere of Italy warming Sibelius’ austere Scandinavian sensibilities. Others hear a Finlandia-like program that dramatizes Finland’s struggle for national identity in the face of foreign domination. But Sibelius would have had none of this. He wanted his music considered abstractly—as sound-drama and not as a vehicle for extra-musical interpretation—and there is no doubt that the Second Symphony, in all its austere grandeur, is a stunning success as sound-drama.

Brazilian Sleigh Bells
PERCY FAITH (arranged by Lee Norris)
Born April 7, 1908, Toronto, Ontario
Died February 9, 1976, Encino, California

Percy Faith received his early training as a pianist in Canada and as a young man played the piano for silent films in movie houses. His career as a pianist came to an end at age 18 when his young sister accidentally set her dress on fire, and Faith’s hands were burned seriously as he rescued her. He then switched to a career as an arranger and composer, became an American citizen in 1945, and was based primarily in Hollywood, where he wrote film scores, recorded, and made countless arrangements for a number of artists.

Fantasia on Greensleeves
Born October 12, 1872, Down Ampney
Died August 26, 1958, London

The old English folksong Greensleeves (mentioned by Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor) has been heard in many settings on many different texts, ranging from lovesongs to political ballads to hymns to dances and to Christmas and New Year’s carols (and even to some obscene variants). Vaughan Williams had a passion for English folk music, and he first used the Greensleeves tune in 1912 when he included it in the incidental music he composed for a production of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives at Stratford-upon-Avon. When he composed his opera Sir John in Love (based on The Merry Wives) during the years 1924-8, Vaughan Williams used the tune once again: it is sung by Mistress Ford in Act III. In 1934, this setting was arranged for small orchestra (flute, harp, and strings), and in this version it has become one of Vaughan Williams’ best-known works.

Radetzky March
Born March 14, 1804, Vienna
Died September 25, 1849, Vienna

The Viennese craze for waltzes was launched by Johann Strauss I and Josepf Lanner in the early nineteenth century, but Strauss’ son—Johann Strauss II—was the real waltz king. It was the son who wrote the Blue Danube, Emperor, Wiener Blut, Morning Papers, and hundreds of other waltzes that will charm audiences as long as there is music. Though the waltzes and performances of the senior Strauss were much admired in his lifetime, his music has almost disappeared from concert programs today, and by a curious irony his one composition to achieve enduring fame, the Radetzky March, is not a waltz at all.

—Program notes by Eric Bromberger

The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1984 by Gregory W. Heltman, and led by Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa today The Santa Fe Symphony includes sixty-five professional musicians and over 90 choristers—all New Mexico residents, under Executive Director Daniel M. Crupi. Our musicians trained at esteemed conservatories such as Juilliard and Northwestern. Many performed with globally-recognized orchestras, including the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Principal Conductor Guillermo Figueroa

One of the most versatile and respected musical artists of his generation—renowned as conductor, violinist, violist, and concertmaster—Guillermo Figueroa is the Principal Conductor of The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. He also serves as the Music Director of the Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, Music Director of the Lynn Philharmonia in Florida, and is the founder of the highly acclaimed Figueroa Music and Arts Project in Albuquerque. Additionally, he was the Music Director of both the New Mexico Symphony and the Puerto Rico Symphony. With this last orchestra, he performed to critical acclaim at Carnegie Hall in 2003, the Kennedy Center in 2004, and Spain in 2005. Learn more …

& Musicians

Principal Conductor

Guillermo Figueroa


The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra

Meet The Composers