SoNA holiday concert ‘a beautiful gift to the community’

SoNA holiday concert ‘a beautiful gift to the community’


“It’s pretty hard to leave ‘A Very SoNA Christmas’ without a feeling of joy — about the mystery of Christmas and about the fellowship that a concert like this one brings to our lives,” says Matthew Herren, executive director of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas.

He’s talking about the holiday tradition that takes place this year on Dec. 21 at the Walton Arts Center.

“Our Christmas concert is a showcase for the orchestra and some exceptional talent from Northwest Arkansas,” Herren explains. “It’s also a moving experience which is reflective of this time of year. We’ll be playing both secular and sacred music, and, of course, there will be surprises. It’s also a perfect concert for families.”

Joining the orchestra are the SoNA Singers under the direction of Terry Hicks; the University of Arkansas Schola Cantorum under the direction of Stephen Caldwell; and the Bentonville High School Chamber Choir, also under the direction of Hicks.

“The human voice is one of the most intimate and connecting instruments,” Hicks muses. “Hearing a chorus at this time of year brings a feeling of togetherness and an atmosphere of nostalgia.”

“There’s a large portion of sacred music on the program, and the earliest music in the church was vocal, so there’s a lot to draw from,” agrees Herren. “Paul chooses most of the music for this one, but he also takes input from our choral conductors, Terry Hicks and Stephen Caldwell, and a newly formed artistic committee, which is made up of musicians and board members who bring views from both sides of the footlights.”

“I always want the music and presentation to be one of joy and to give a strong sense of community,” adds Hicks.

Caldwell says for his singers, it’s an opportunity to “showcase [their] talents for a broader audience, and the students get a peek into the world of a professional arts organization. These collaborations are good for everyone involved.”

Schola will be singing Caldwell’s new composition “Mid-Winter,” which he describes as “a modern adaptation of Holst’s classic carol ‘In the bleak mid-winter.’”

“In adapting Holst’s classic carol, I chose to focus the music on the imagery of unending snowfall,” Caldwell says. “When it begins to snow, the world stops to gaze at its beauty. We pour hot cocoa and watch it fall, cuddled under blankets. But as the snowfall continues, our sense of wonder turns to anxiety, and later fear. As the snow piles up, foot after foot, it buries our ability to access food and water, it can disrupt electricity and heat. It can become life and death. So the piece focuses on the line ‘snow had fallen snow on snow,’ and builds in intensity as the snow falls.”

On the other hand, Hicks says he’s reminded of his best holiday memories: “My family’s first Christmas together in our first home reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ to our children after we just finished watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Being in our own home establishing family tradition is such a beautiful memory.”

Herren is all for the concert becoming a holiday tradition for Northwest Arkansas families.

“We want it to be a pretty lavish event,” he says. And, Hicks adds, “I hope [audiences] take away what they need for the season. If they need joy and spirit, they will find it. If they need tradition and structure, they will experience it. If they need love and community, they will feel it.

“This performance is a beautiful gift to the community to be taken in by all.”



‘A Very SoNA Christmas’

WHEN — 2 & 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $33-$55; SoNA is offering a limited number of free tickets for youth ages 18 and younger to any of the season’s mainstage concerts

INFO —, 443-5600



‘The Snowman:

A Family Concert’

Also next weekend, SoNA accompanies the award-winning animated film about a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life and takes him on an adventure to the North Pole.

WHEN — 2 p.m. Dec. 22

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO —, 443-5600

Categories: Music