Er-Gene Kahng soloist at Fort Smith Symphony Christmas concert

Er-Gene Kahng soloist at Fort Smith Symphony Christmas concert

“We are required by law to perform ‘Sleigh Ride’ every Christmas,” jokes John Jeter, music director of the Fort Smith Symphony, which will present its “Joy of Christmas” concert Dec. 3.

But more seriously, he adds: “Selecting music for Christmas is actually quite challenging. One would think that there are millions of arrangements of holiday music, but it’s surprisingly limited. So the challenge is combining traditional favorites with exciting new arrangements. Fortunately, we have some great resources, so we are able to offer a thrilling and different program while still having it feel traditional.”

Jeter this year has chosen “fantastic arrangements of ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,’ ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘We Three Kings,’ ‘Carol of the Bells’, ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ and ‘Do You Hear What I Hear.’ Audiences will recall our collaboration with arranger Matt Riley,” he adds, “and we are happy to be featuring his music again, including some great new arrangements. We are also performing the complete Nutcracker Suite and ‘A Christmas Festival.’”

Violinist and Fort Smith Symphony concertmaster Er-Gene Kahng has three solos this year — “Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “Hyfrydol” (Come Thou Long Expected Jesus) and “We Three Kings.”

“It is difficult to pick a favorite,” she admits. “The Matt Riley arrangement of familiar pieces are all delightful, virtuosic and a lot of fun for the performer; these three are no exception!”

“Our holiday concert is always very well attended,” Jeter adds. “Yes, we do see many children and younger families; however, we are seeing that as an overall trend at all of our concerts, which is very exciting. These concerts really are for everyone.”

Jeter says his personal family traditions “are to try to stay relaxed and non-rushed at the holidays.”

“There seems to be so much frenetic, crazy energy out there, so we’ve learned to just spend time with family and friends, and chill out,” he says. “This is particularly helpful for musicians as its a crazy time of year for performers.”

Kahng says her family traditions are not “unique,” but “I look forward to it every year: the gift giving, the gathering, the cooking and, of course, the eating! Violin usually takes a vacation too, but only after all the holiday concerts pass, of course!”

As usual, an after-party at 8:30 p.m. at the Bakery District follows the Dec. 3 performance.

“Audience and musicians alike love this opportunity to hang out and celebrate post concert,” says Jeter. “The entire audience and orchestra are invited. Concert tickets can be be used for a free beverage at this event, [and] there is always excellent live music for everyone to enjoy. ‘After-Party’ music throughout this season will feature the Fort Smith Symphony String Quartet, Kool Cats Jazz Quartet, Fort Smith Symphony Brass Quintet, The Crumbs and more.” This time, he says, a quintet will play traditional holiday music.

As an additional gift to the community, the Fort Smith Symphony is also presenting a series of free performances titled “Sacred Sounds at Mercy,” which began Nov. 15. The collaboration with Mercy Fort Smith continues Nov. 29 with Laken Emerson, Fantastic Flute; Sonorous Strings on Dec. 1; Lori Fay, Virtuoso Violin, on Dec. 6; and Gary Hutchinson, Glorious Guitar, on Dec. 8. Performances take place at 10 a.m. at the Mercy Medical Building, which faces Rogers Avenue. Enter at 70th Street.



Fort Smith Symphony:

The Joy of Christmas

WHEN — 7 p.m. Dec. 3

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — $25-$45


Categories: Music