Almost everyone will be asked, “Have you got the Christmas spirit yet?” Indefinable with precision, we know what it is. If we were lucky enough to be raised in a loving home we have the memory of the excitement that still smolders just waiting to be breathed into the present. With all the angst in which we live it’s not easy but it can be done.
Too late to avail yourself of it this year, but mark your calendar for early December 2018. That’s when the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will present its annual Christmas Pops. I’m not sure how many years they have been doing this, but the performance on December 8 at the Salem Civic Center was certainly one of their best.
The RSO has many local artists who participate, but a large number travel from other states to join the festivities. A chorus of probably 300 will blow your hair back with song. There is always a featured soloist to crown the evening. This year it was Michael “Big Man” Lynche of American Idol fame. He sang with power and passion that filled the building from top to bottom, from side to side and you could have heard a pin drop during “O Holy Night.”
An unexpected highlight was the Marching Sousaphones from Virginia Tech. There were more than two dozen of them . . . an ensemble that may have never had a better performance. Dressed in their marching uniforms they oomph-pahed a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” complete with Radio City Rockette leg kicks.
A word needs to be said about the seating. The floor of the center is set up with tables for eight. Most attendees bring a picnic style dinner, although food is available through the concession stand as well as wine. The standard stadium seating had a surprising number of occupants at a much lower cost but they paid a price of another kind. The steps are steep, there are no hand rails on which to steady oneself, and the leg room, once seated, is designed for very small people. All of this has been brought to the attention of the management but with no results. So treacherous is the footing that only the very physically fit should attempt it.
That being said, the ambiance of the evening is virtually guaranteed to ignite the spirit of the seasons. For anyone who can experience joy in the air, it will be found. Whether Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, or even non-believers of any ilk, you will leave feeling uplifted by the joy of watching Maestro Wiley play the keyboard as if the instrument is on wire (including the bench). To see anyone enjoy performing with the exuberance of this group is an experience to be treasured.
So much looks dark in these early days of winter and we’re not talking about light but all the hate and hostility that threatens to overtake us all. We must not lose sight of the goodness that can win the day, if we all put aside our differences and listen for music with a hopeful heart. The spirit of the season transcends Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza. It can push aside politics and scandal, and all that surrounds our lives with negativity. We can be thankful that the Roanoke Symphony and Chorus help us do that every year.