Christmas as told by Vivaldi and Schubert

The Erie Chamber Orchestra at Gannon University prides itself in holding a full season of free concerts, which are open to the public.

This season is no different.

The ECO continues with its “Classical Christmas” show Friday, at the Cathedral Prep auditorium.

The show features Maureen Conlon, a violinist and the new concertmaster for the ECO, and Shannon Kessler Dooley – soprano vocalist – in solo roles during the concert.

The central focus of the show, however, is not with the people performing the music.

Rather, it is the music itself.

The ECO and General Manager Steve Weiser decided to take a break from the usual pop Christmas songs, done so often in the past.

“We wanted to do something a little bit different than a rehashing of the same music over and over again,” Weiser said.

“We still picked holiday-themed music; we just sort of went with the classical route.”

The lineup of songs includes works from such composers as Schubert, Vivaldi and Piazzolla and almost brings about a flashback of sorts to the original music written for orchestras. However, they are not completely abandoning the popular Christmas music.

“We will still have the obligatory sing-along and ‘Sleigh Ride,’” Weiser said.

“We are also keeping our visit from Santa, though this year marks the debut of our new Santa. So we are very excited about that.”

The soloists featured in this year’s Christmas concert are also big news for the ECO, as they feature members of the orchestra itself who are taking on new responsibilities.

Weiser said Conlon is actually the new concertmaster.

“For her, this is taking a step away from that role and focusing solely on performing a solo in the concert. Also, we have worked with Shannon Kessler Dooley in the past and we are delighted to have her back.”

As always, the concert will be free and open to the public, making the ECO the only program of its kind in the country, according to Weiser.

“When you see orchestras give free concerts, they’re usually very rare or they have some other way of making the funds,” said Weiser.

Weiser said the ECO is the only orchestra in the country that gives a full season of free concerts.

The orchestra relies heavily on donations and merchandise sales for funds, since it still has all the costs of a typical orchestra: music rentals, venue rentals and things of that nature.

The event marks the midway point of the ECO season. It is set to perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Cathedral Prep auditorium on West 10th Street.

After Christmas break, the orchestra’s next event will be the “Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” on Jan. 16.



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