Christmas Playlist

Monday, November 1

We're declaring an early start to the holiday season with a special playlist!

It’s the day after Halloween, and you know what that means: time to break out the Christmas playlist! The holiday planning starts long before November here at the Omaha Symphony – there’s a show to plan, dances to choreograph, music to rehearse, and lots more going on behind the scenes. The musicians and staff of the Omaha Symphony put together a playlist for you if you’re ready to break out the holiday music like we are!

In the meantime, be sure to grab your tickets for the Physicians Mutual Omaha Symphony Christmas Celebration! We’re thrilled to welcome you back to the Holland Center to celebrate Omaha’s favorite reason to gather once again.

Enjoy the music, and we’ll see you soon!

Listen to our playlist above, and follow us on Spotify for more!

Bill Ritchie, Bass

“Carol of the Bells” from Crescent City Christmas Card by Wynton Marsalis

“My wife Patty and I would always listen to this Christmas jazz CD with our two sons as we drove nine hours from Omaha back to see both of our families in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan before the Christmas holiday. As I listen to it now, it reminds me of those long drives, sometimes with gentle lake effect snow falling as we got near to Lake Michigan.”

Keith Plenert, Principal Second Violin

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from Crescent City Christmas Card by Wynton Marsalis

“It’s a jazzified version narrated by Wynton himself. It became a yearly tradition for me to listen to this with my nephew as we drove to my church’s Christmas Eve service every year. The music matches the text so well. It’s awesome!”

Margaret Lim, Cello

“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole

“It dates me, I know, but reminds me of more innocent times; I was fortunate enough to grow up in Nebraska with lots of wonderful childhood memories. It’s my hope that families with young children will bring their kids to the Physicians Mutual Omaha Symphony Christmas Celebration and that it will offset some of the uglier things in our world at the moment.”

Mark Motycka, Cello

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Stan Kenton

“Crystal Silence” by Gary Burton and Chick Corea

“Stan Kenton’s ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ was one amongst many Big Band tunes to announce the holidays in our home.

“Gary Burton and Chick Corea's interior reflections on ‘Crystal Silence’ still startle me, reminders of desolate fragilities, a warming fireplace, and our island during the winters in New England.”

Alexandra Robinson, Marketing & PR Manager

“Adoration of the Magi” from Trittico Botticelliano by Ottorino Respighi

“I work in Marketing and Communications for the Omaha Symphony now, but back in the day I was a music major studying bassoon and performing in so many annual Christmas concerts. This is one of the big orchestral features we performed as part my college’s Christmas celebration, and learning this music remains one of my favorite memories from that time in my life. It always goes on my holiday playlists and gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.”

Dani Meier, Bass and Vice President of Artistic Administration

“Carol of the Bells” from Trombones Under the Tree by Joseph Alessi, Carl Lenthe, M. Dee Stewert, and Mark Lawrence

“Nutcracker Sketches” from Trombones Under the Tree by Joseph Alessi, Carl Lenthe, M. Dee Stewert, and Mark Lawrence

“Jingle Bells” from Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Christmas Oratorio – BWV 248 #41 “Ich Will Nur Zu Ehren Leben” from Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

“Sleigh Ride” from Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

“Every year, I return to the exact same playlist for my holiday fix. It's got the more normal go-tos like A Charlie Brown Christmas, but the vast majority of this list is occupied by Trombones Under the Tree, a collaboration of four incredible trombonists, and Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. The first because my husband (Omaha Symphony Principal Trombone Patrick Pfister) brainwashed me, and you really can't have Christmas without glorious, glorious arrangements like ‘Carol of the Bells’ and ‘Nutcracker Sketches’ for trombone quartet. It's like being wrapped in this velvet, cinnamon-spiced sound.

“Jingle All the Way not only has the outrageous talent of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, but they added double bass all-star and demi-god Edgar Meyer. Their take on Bach's ‘Ich will nur zu Ehren leben’ from the Christmas Oratorio bops around my head during every Christmas errand and busy sequence around Omaha. I also recommend their ‘Sleigh Ride’ which is—ah—well, they lost the reins about two miles back and the horse is GROOVING.”

Patrick Pfister, Principal Trombone

Christmas Oratorio - Part II, Sinfonia by J.S. Bach, Ludwig Güttler/Virtuosi Saxoniae

Laudate Dominum by Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison by Honegger

Farewell (Handel: Tochter Zion) by The Highway Jazzmen / The Bourbon Street Players

My original experience with this recording of Bach's Christmas Oratorio was part of a cheap five-disc set on Laserlight that my dad probably purchased at a department store. There were numerous tracks, and an entire CD, performed by Ludwig Güttler and his collaborators. His phrasing and stylish playing are still ideals I look up to, and this set of CDs was probably what started my fascination with German ensembles—The Virtuosi Saxoniae being players largely made up of members of the Staatskapelle Dresden. This particular performance (and Güttler's later recording) is odd in that the recurring appoggiatura (:14 & :16) are played twice as fast as notated, but I love the extra lilt it gives. The Christmas Oratorio is one of my favorites, and this movement in particular paints a marvelous, gentle scene.

I was surprised at how many of my narrowed-down picks were in triple meter—there's just something addicting about it. I am not usually one to like Honegger, but having grown up attending the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, with its fantastic organ and musicians, I love how this short little piece starts out slightly funky, turns light and bubbly, and then ends absolutely bonkers over the last 30 seconds. And, of course, the organ going full bore (I hope you have a subwoofer!). This is part of a larger work, Une cantate de Noel, for orchestra, organ, and choir. The recording with Elmer Iseler (also on Spotify) is this same two-minute selection, but in the orchestrated version, and is equally excellent.

Okay, back to that Laserlight collection (here in a different guise)! This CD was called 'Christmas in Dixie' and had 13 tracks. Half were up-tempo and let the talents of the wind players shine, the other half were an abomination of cheesy arrangements. You get a bit of a taste of that in this track with what sounds like real live (yet sadly uncredited) humans playing the winds and what sounds like a mid-80s Roland keyboard set to an auto preset for the drums. It's super kitschy, but the "good" tracks put a huge smile on my face.

Kyra Hansen, Director of Operations

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland

“My all-time favorite is Judy Garland's ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’ My grandpa had the record, and I loved listening to it at Christmastime as a kid. I remember liking the orchestration (well before I knew what an orchestration was!).”

Lisa Meyerhofer, Third Flute/Piccolo

Pastorales de Noël for flute, bassoon and harp by André Jolivet

“I came across this piece last year when I performed it as part of a holiday concert with the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. It is a gorgeous hidden gem of a Christmas piece, with movements depicting the star, the Magi, mother and child, and the shepherds. While it does have a religious theme, it is also just a beautiful piece of music that isn’t heard often enough. Having the opportunity to play it for a small audience at a church during the pandemic, combined with the excitement of discovering a piece I hadn’t heard before, was very memorable, and I hope others will appreciate the discovery as well!”

Maria Harding, Principal Flute

“Silver Bells” by Alan Jackson

“I will always hold a special place in my heart for ‘Silver Bells’ by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. When I was about seven years old, my family moved from Nebraska to West Texas. We were astonished how different the Christmas season looked in the desert! We made up different lyrics to fit our new surroundings: ‘Tumbleweeds, Dust storms, It's Christmastime in Lubbock...’

Though he's not a Texas man, we'll go with Alan Jackson's recording, as it's got the appropriate twang!”

Diane Coffin, Executive Assistant

“The Bells of Christmas” by Julie Andrews

“I love all the classic Christmas carols and crooners (Bing, Frank, Nat, Andy, Perry and so on!), but I think my nostalgic favorite recording is the big finale to Firestone Christmas Album volume 4, ‘The Bells of Christmas’ performed by Julie Andrews, the Young Americans, and the Firestone Orchestra. As kids, we used to crank up the volume on the stereo for this song, and it still thrills me!”

Susanna Perry Gilmore, Concertmaster

“Christ Child’s Lullaby (Talladh Chriosta)” by Apollo’s Fire from Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain

“Sheep under the snow/Apples in Winter/Little Christmas Reel” by Apollo’s Fire from Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain

“The Coventry Carol” by Anúna, Michael McGlynn

“I have always loved the carols from England and the Celtic tradition (no big surprise!). ‘The Coventry Carol,’ which will be part of this season’s show in a medley for singer Tiffany Haas and solo violin, has been a longtime favorite of mine. In fact, all the carols which use the device of the maternal lullaby to tell a story of love and hardship, I find deeply moving.

“My favorite Celtic lullaby carol is the ‘Christ Child’s Lullaby’– this version is sung in English from the Celtic. I also love traditional Irish tunes about Christmas and the Winter Solstice, and this medley is from that same Apollo’s Fire album.”

Jamie Pham, Artistic Manager

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Michael Bublé

“Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by Nsync

“I love Christmas, even though it’s crazy times here at the Symphony. I basically love every Christmas song… all of them. But these ones are must-haves on my playlist! Michael Bublé, because who doesn’t want to listen to Michael? Paul McCartney because you need a Christmas song with synth sounds to break up the carols. And Nsync because boy bands are awesome, and you should choregraph dance moves to all things Christmas!”

Emily Duffin, Personnel Manager

“Jesus Is Born Today” by the Oak Ridge Boys

“This song is my all-time favorite Christmas tune. Growing up, to wake us up in the morning on Christmas Day my dad would play that song on full blast and it would play on repeat all morning.”

Josh Tague, Director of Marketing and Sales

“Last Christmas” by Wham! (my unguilty pleasure song)

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee

“The Christmas song that I resonate with most is ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ by Brenda Lee. It’s a holiday mainstay that brings up all of my best memories from childhood up until now. I can remember as a very young boy dancing to it with my mom as my family decorated the house and then later remember hearing it on Home Alone when that movie was big. It always gets me moving, and its quality as a song is unquestionable.”

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