December 4, 2013

RPO Musicians Share Holiday Traditions

As we move into this busy time of year—with all the holiday parties, shopping, decorating, cooking, and getting ready for houseguests—we took a moment to ask the RPO musicians about their holiday traditions and favorite holiday music. Of course, there are the annual Gala Holiday Pops concerts to prepare for. But beyond that, we asked them what they do to celebrate the holidays.

Concertmaster Juliana Athayde says, “My favorite holiday tradition is celebrating Christmas Eve with my family in California. Since my mom’s family is of Norwegian descent, we celebrate on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Complete with performing at late night mass (our whole family is made up of musicians), enjoying a delicious dinner, and opening presents!

“As kids, we always had to make sure the dishes were cleared and the dishwasher was running before we could open presents. Then, we would each open one present at a time starting from the youngest person in the family to the oldest. We still do it that way and I love that it allows us to focus on what each person has given and received, instead of everyone ripping open their presents at the same time.”

Principal Clarinet Kenneth Grant says that his holiday traditions include “enjoying our week of Holiday Pops … and quiet times with family in front of the fireplace.”

Acting Principal Cello Kathleen Murphy Kemp says, “When my kids were little, we cut down our tree and made lots of Christmas cookies. Dinner and church on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, and we opened stockings before breakfast. Traditions are changing now as the family has grown up. Excited to see what their traditions will be!”

As far as favorite music, Juliana has quite a collection of jazz and retro holiday tunes. “If I had to pick a favorite,” she says, “it would be any of Harry Connick Jr.’s holiday albums. I think I have them all and the combination of his velvety sound along with the great arrangements—whether for big band or intimate jazz combo—make for a great listening experience sure to liven up any holiday gathering!”

Kenny Grant recommends the Johnny Mathis album The Sounds of Christmas. And Kathy Kemp suggests, “The RPO holiday CD, of course!”

You can purchase your own copy of the RPO’s A Holiday Celebration, featuring the Festival High School Chorale, tenor Tonio Di Paolo, and Jeff Tyzik’s The Twelve Gifts of Christmas, Little Drummer Boy, and Chanukah Suite. It's on sale now for $5 in the Eastman Theatre Shop or online.

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