Join your Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra in welcoming the holidays with some of the most beloved music of the season. Hill Auditorium will glow with the magical spirt of this cherished A2SO tradition. We begin with at the Stahlbaum family house on Christmas Eve with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s unmistakably enchanting ballet, The Nutcracker. Through the Land of Sweets ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy we travel before joining Hansel and Gretel with excerpts from Engelbert Humperdinck’s operatic interpretation of the fairy tale. The timeless melodies of I Saw Three Ships, The First Noel, and Let There Be Peace On Earth will shimmer through the orchestra and are joined by the voices of six separate Ann Arbor area choruses joining together to sing selections from The Seven Joys of Christmas.

Full Program

  • ANDERSON Christmas Festival Overture
  • JOSEF STRAUSS Winterlust – polka schnell, op.121
  • CRAIG CORTNEY Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace
  • RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Christmas Eve: Polonaise
  • HUMPERDINCK Evening Prayer & Dream Pantomime from Hansel and Gretel
  • TCHAIKOVSKY Nutcracker Excerpts
  • I Saw Three Ships, from Trilogy, arr. MARK REISE
  • DAN FORREST Angels from the Realms of Glory
  • DAN FORREST The First Noel
  • Singalong of Carols
  • Let There be Peace on Earth
  • KIRKE MECHEM Selections from Seven Joys of Christmas

Fast Facts

Fairy Tales

For many composers during the end of the 19th-century, fairy tales of one’s country were important sources of inspiration. In Germany, Engelbert Humperdinck used the famous Grimm Brothers’ fairy tail “Hansel and Gretel” as the foundation for his opera. It was Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette, who approached her brother about writing music for Christmas poems she had written based on the fairy tale. The opera has been closely associated with Christmas since its premiere in 1893. In Russia, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakova drew inspiration from the fairy tale atmosphere created in Humperdinck’s new opera. Nikolai Gogol’s “Evening On a Farm Near Dikanka” was a popular folk tale being adapted by three other composers for operas before Rimsky-Korsakov crafted his own fairy tale opera in Christmas Eve.

The Flip Side

In 1950 the Boston Pops commissioned Leroy Anderson to write a concert overture built from Christmas music. It was not the limited musical material to draw from that posed a compositional challenge, but rather the size of those pesky 78rpm records. First, Anderson had to take into consideration a recording of his piece had to fit onto a two-sided record. Next came the issue of flipping from side one to side two. Christmas Festival Overture runs about 8-minutes long meaning Anderson composes a logical break in his piece around the 4-minute mark where a listener could flip their record although he takes pride in challenging anyone to find that break during a live performance.

Virtual Choir

Eric Whitacre was commissioned in 2013 by Disney to help create a song specifically for World of Color–Winter Dreams which premiered at Disney’s California Adventure. Whitacre composed “Glow” for this occasion. The piece was performed by 1473 sings from all 50 states that were brought together through Whitacre’s “Virtual Choir” project. Singers are able to record and upload a video of their individual performance which is taken and synchronized with other parts to create an immense digital choir. Click here to learn more about Whitacre’s Virtual Choir.

What to listen for


A fast and festive dance written by a member of the Strauss family, the masters of polka


Tchaikovsky's musical journey through the Land of Sweets


A mighty "Ho, ho, ho!" from Santa Claus!


The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra is joined this year by six choirs from the area: Ann Arbor Youth Chorale, Measure For Measure, Huron High School, Pioneer High School, Skyline High School, and Saline High School.


Carols sung by audience and choir members alike

Further listening

Miles to the North Pole

Ann Arbor Area Choruses Featured

Reindeer Pulling Santa's Sleigh