When TSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke began planning this season’s Holiday Pops concert over a year ago, he could never have imagined that he would be hosting the annual audience favourite remotely from his home in upstate New York. Programming for orchestras is typically done between one and two years in advance, and the need to re-create the program in its entirety was a significant shift.
We asked Steven to share his thoughts about this year’s unique holiday celebration.
What were your first thoughts at having to reimagine the TSO’s Holiday Pops program?
It felt like, in an instant, years of work, just...vanished. But then, as I started to work with the TSO team, we began to have really wonderful discussions about how to make this concert really meaningful to people in these terribly tough days. That creative process was really an unexpected holiday gift for me because it reinforced the exquisite power that music can have in giving listeners meaning and strength.
How did you shape the concert to reflect our times?
I really wanted the concert to be joyous, but also reflect the poignancy of our lives right now. For example, we’ve included a beautiful piece to celebrate Hanukkah—Mis zeh Hidlik (Behold the Lights)—which evokes the triumph of light over darkness. It’s very emotional and meaningful.
What is the most joyful moment of the concert?
Well, that’s easy! Every year, we feature a sing-along with the audience, and this year is no different. Everyone is invited to belt out the songs from their living rooms with us—“Silent Night”, “Joy to the World”, and “Jingle Bells”, of course, with a special appearance by Santa Claus himself!
The TSO has had many illustrious vocalists perform as part of Holiday Pops over the years. Who is it this year?
We put a great deal of thought into who to invite this year. The urgent questions about how orchestras can be more diverse and inclusive really came to a head this summer, and we thought about programming through this lens. I am just thrilled that supremely talented Métis singer-songwriter Andrea Menard is the featured singer. Her songs are very powerful, and she brings a perspective on the meaning of holiday traditions and her heritage.
Will you be conducting virtually from your living room?
Well, our wonderful TSO musicians are in terrific hands under the baton of Simon Rivard, the TSO’s RBC Resident Conductor. I do miss conducting the TSO terribly, but am delighted to be hosting the concert virtually.
Any special holiday wishes?
My biggest wish is for good health for everyone. My second-biggest wish is to be with the TSO again soon, on stage in front of Toronto audiences!
Purchase passes for TSO On Demand: Holiday Pops, available to view from December 18, 2020—January 3, 2021.
Steven Reineke’s appearance is generously supported by Ross and Sarah Kerr.