NEPA Philharmonic Spreads Cheer With Holiday Pops Concert

December 13, 2018

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic can once again give the gift of music this holiday season. The orchestra will present its holiday pops concert Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St., Scranton, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Mélisse Brunet, interim music director said they worked hard on the program, which features classical holiday fair and other types of music. “It’s a nice mix for all communities of the cities. ... Everybody can really feel welcome when coming to that concert,” Brunet said. After suspending operations for the 2017-18 season so it could develop a plan to stay financially viable, the orchestra returned to the stage in October, a show executive director Nancy Sanderson said sold out. “It was really great,” she said. “The audience seemed to be so happy to see the orchestra back on its feet.” When the orchestra went dark last season, Sanderson said she heard from community members about how much they missed the holiday concert. The returning favorite will feature many of the staples of past editions, such as the Choral Society of Northeast Pennsylvania; singer Erin Malloy, who will perform as well as lead an audience sing-along; and “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” featuring dancers from Ballet Theatre of Scranton. “(The march is) just such a tradition,” Sanderson said. “I think we would be booed out of town if we didn’t have that.” The audience also will hear the premier of a Klezmer piece Sanderson said is based on old Jewish melodies. It first was composed for band and clarinet solo and was just rewritten for orchestra and clarinet solo, Brunet said. “We always try to include something for people who practice the Jewish faith, and we have this incredible … piece this year that’s just fun,” Sanderson said. And as always, Santa and Mrs. Claus will stop by at the end of the show. Brunet, a Paris native who was the philharmonic’s apprentice conductor in 2016, took over for longtime conductor Lawrence Loh this year, and Sanderson said the orchestra has received “wonderful feedback.” “She’s fun,” Sanderson said of Brunet. “The musicians really love to play under her. She’s really clear about what she wants, and she’s got her own particular signature on everything she does. ... The audience loves her because she’s just so charming. She likes to talk and interact with the audience, and she is really of the philosophy that a great concert is interactive.” And Sanderson said the orchestra is following a five-year strategic plan, which she described as “fairly modest the first few years so that we can settle our debts without having to go to the community and ask them to pay off (our) debts.” “People like to invest in the future and not in the past, and so we’re determined to do it the right way,” she said. Part of the plan involves Brunet remaining as acting music director through those five years, after which time the orchestra must conduct a search for a new leader in accordance with a union agreement. “But I sure hope (Brunet) submits her application,” Sanderson said. “She’s got great energy, and I’m really proud of the fact that we have a woman conductor right here in Northeast Pennsylvania, because it still is a man’s world. And that she has this position (and) this particular region of Pennsylvania wants her to be up there I think speaks volumes about open-mindedness and understanding the needs of the community.” Contact the writer: cwest@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; @cheaneywest on Twitter If you go What: Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic Holiday Pops concerts When/where: Saturday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St., Scranton; and Sunday, Dec. 16, 3 p.m., F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre Details: Tickets cost $33 to $68. For tickets, call 570-270-4444 or visit nepaphil.org.