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Gospel Christmas 20th Anniversary; Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert; Violinist James Ehnes; Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances; New Year’s Eve with Ellington and Beethoven; and Cirque De La Symphonie Sparkle in December Concerts

October 26, 2018

PORTLAND, OR – The Oregon Symphony’s December lineup shines with joyful music, film, and theatrical performances. Internationally renowned violinist James Ehnes, hailed by The Times of London as “a violinist in a class of his own,” plays Walton’s Violin Concerto in a concert that also features Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances on December 1–3; Gospel Christmas celebrates its 20TH anniversary with the release of its first CD, available for sale during performances on December 7–9; Cirque de la Symphonie’s world-class aerialists, strongmen, acrobats, and other circus artists perform eye-popping acts made magical with live orchestra and a suite of classical holiday favorites on December 13; the Popcorn Package continues with Tim Burton’s modern classic The Nightmare Before Christmas featuring Danny Elfman’s award-winning score on December 15–16; orchestral and choral holiday favorites take center stage for our Comfort and Joy classical concert on December 17; and we swing into the New Year with Duke Ellington’s jazzy Nutcracker Suite and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on December 30–31.




When and Where: Dec. 1 at 7:30 pm, Dec. 2 at 2 pm, and Dec. 3 at 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Note: This concert will also be performed in Salem on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 pm. For more information, go to orsymphonysalem.org.

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony, with guest conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen; *James Ehnes, violin

The Program:

Hillborg: Exquisite Corpse
*Walton: Violin Concerto
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

What’s So Special About This Concert:

  • “Eivind Gullberg Jensen – bookmark that name – displays a fine sensitivity for balance and rhythm.” – Norman Lebrecht, Slipped Disc, March 2009
  • “… it was hard to be disappointed with a concert containing music-making of such consistent vitality under the very dynamic leadership from young Norwegian conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen.” – Simon Holden, Backtrack, May 2015
  • James Ehnes has established himself as one of the most sought-after violinists on the international stage. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism, and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is a favorite guest of many of the world’s most renowned conductors, including Marin Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, and Donald Runnicles.
  • Praise for James Ehnes: “A violinist in a class of his own.” – The Times (London); “The wondrous James Ehnes, a thinker of the violin as well as a supreme virtuoso of the instrument ... an artist of the first order.” – The Daily Telegraph; “This was a glorious performance that revelled in the Concerto's lyricism without becoming cloying. But the encore was simply spell-binding: Ehnes played the third movement from Bach's Second Sonata for solo violin as the whole Royal Albert Hall leaned in to listen.” – BBC Music Magazine, August 2014
  • Ehnes performs on the 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius.

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On Eivind Gullberg Jensen: eivindgullbergjensen.com

On James Ehnes: intermusica.co.uk/artist/James-Ehnes

Tickets: begin at $24




When and Where: [Editors: please note different starting times] Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 9 at 4 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony with guest conductor Charles Floyd; *Northwest Community Gospel Chorus®.

The Program: A high-energy performance of Gospel and holiday favorites, including Holy Night; Carol of the Bells; O Come, All Ye Faithful/I Can’t Hold It; Psalm 150; Do You Hear What I Hear?; Away In A Manger; Emmanuel; and Joy to the World.

What’s So Special About This Concert:

  • For the past 20 seasons, Gospel Christmas concerts have been our most popular holiday performances; this inspiring, up-tempo music consistently sells out the hall.
  • The Oregon Symphony and Northwest Community Gospel Chorus are proud to announce the release of the Gospel Christmas CD on the Pentatone label. CDs will be available for purchase in the lobby of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
  • The Northwest Community Gospel Chorus features the very best of the local gospel talent from local and regional churches and music ministries. Talented soloists from within the choir take turns leading the group with stellar vocal interpretations of classic holiday songs.
  • Join the region’s premier gospel singers and the Oregon Symphony for an evening that’s sure to have you on your feet, clapping and shouting, celebrating the true spirit of the season.  
  • Conductor, pianist, and composer/arranger Charles Floyd has been heard in concert with more than 500 orchestras since 1991 – including every Oregon Symphony Gospel Christmas concert since annual performances began in 1999. He is a regular conductor of the Boston Pops.

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On Charles Floyd: charlesfloyd.com

On the Northwest Community Gospel Choir: orsymphony.org/bios/guestartists/ncgc.aspx

Tickets: begin at $35




When and Where: Dec. 13 at 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony with Associate Conductor Norman Huynh; Cirque de la Symphonie

The Program: The gravity-defying movements and choreography of Cirque de la Symphonie’s aerialists, acrobats, dancers, and jugglers have captivated audiences around the globe. This holiday show is a sure-fire winner for the whole family. 

What’s So Special About This Concert:

  • Cirque de la Symphonie brings the magic of cirque to the concert hall. Artists include veterans of exceptional cirque programs throughout the world – aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, and strongmen.
  • Based in Athens, Georgia, Cirque de la Symphonie’s critically acclaimed performances feature a variety of contemporary circus acts synchronized to the music of a live symphony orchestra.
  • “It’s one thing to go to a symphony concert and hear a singer be at one with the audience and the orchestra. It’s completely different when the orchestra is DC's own musical treasure, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the performers don't speak or sing. They swing from silks, contort their bodies into positions that I would never try, and spin around in hoop-like apparatuses. Put this all together with some of the best classical music ever written and you have an enchanting performance called Cirque de la Symphonie.” – MD Theater Guide, September 22, 2013
  • “A symphony orchestra has a lot in common with circus acts. Both involve developing and maintaining suspense. Both involve spectacle and modulating emotional pitch, capturing the rapt attention of an audience willing to surrender to every nuance or peak. Whenever the orchestra and artists were working together, those principles were obvious. But when the circus folk took a break, one realized those effects were still in play, in the music. The clearest sign that ‘Cirque’ was working was in the way kids in the audience were just as absorbed by the stand-alone musical portions of the program as they were by the ones featuring the performers.” – Seattle Times, July 12, 2008
  • “I promised myself that I wouldn't gush, but that’s really what the program deserves.” – DC Metro Theater Arts, September 30, 2013

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On Cirque de la Symphonie: cirquedelasymphonie.com




When and Where: [Editors: please note different starting times] Dec. 15 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 16 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony, with Associate Conductor Norman Huynh

The Program: Tim Burton’s fantastical tale of the Pumpkin King, Oogie Boogie, and Sandy Claws comes to life on our big screen, complete with Danny Elfman’s film score performed live.

What’s So Special About This Concert:

  • Oregon Symphony’s Popcorn Package film series continues with Tim Burton’s modern holiday classic. All audience members are encouraged to wear their favorite costumes. Tickets are selling quickly; best seats and prices available Sunday, December 16, at 7:30 pm.
  • Burton first conceived “Nightmare” while working as an animator for Disney Studios in the 1980s.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas grossed over $76 million dollars during its original release in 1991, and received widespread critical acclaim; it was also the first animated film to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.
  • Praise for The Nightmare Before Christmas: “A stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.” – Rotten Tomatoes; “Filled with imagination that carries us into a new world.” – Roger Ebert; “This dazzling mix of fun and fright … explodes the myth that animation is kid stuff … it’s 74 minutes of movie magic.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  • Danny Elfman’s score won a Saturn Award for Best Music, and the film itself won for Best Fantasy Film.

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: columbia-artists.com/?webid=2437

Tickets: begin at $35




When and Where: Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony, with Associate Conductor Norman Huynh and the Oregon Chorale

The Program: Favorite light classical holiday music, including Sleigh Ride; Carol of the Bells; selections from Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland; selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet; selections from Vivaldi’s Gloria; orchestral arrangements of favorite carols; and a Christmas Carol sing-along.

What’s So Special About This Concert:

  • For the second time, the Oregon Chorale joins the orchestra for this annual celebration of holiday music.
  • The Oregon Chorale, a sixty-voice symphonic choir directed by Jason Sabino, has been delighting audiences since 1985, has toured in Europe six times, and has produced four CDs.
  • The ideal outing for families – and one that is priced accordingly – this concert presents a delightful variety of classical and holiday favorites.
  • The choir joins the orchestra for Rutter’s What Sweeter Music, the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah, A Celtic Festival, and selections from Vivaldi’s Gloria.
  • The audience is invited to sing along with the orchestra in the Christmas Carol Sing-along finale.

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On the Oregon Chorale: oregonchorale.org

Tickets: begin at $25




When and Where: Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 at 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The Performers: The Oregon Symphony, with Music Director Carlos Kalmar; *Jenny Schuler, soprano; *Siena Licht Miller, mezzo-soprano; *tenor to be announced; *Richard Zeller, bass-baritone; *singers from Portland State University, *Oregon Repertory Singers, and the *Pacific Youth Choir

The Program:

Ellington/StrayhornThe Nutcracker Suite
James P. Johnson: Victory Stride
*Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, “Choral”

What’s special about this concert:

  • What finer way to ring in the New Year than with Duke Ellington’s delightfully cheeky twist on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, followed by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and its glorious Ode to Joy? Here’s a concert that swings, exhilarates, and welcomes the New Year with style.
  • In what has become Portland’s most popular New Year’s tradition, audiences have thrilled to the annual performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony featuring singers from Portland State University, the Pacific Youth Choir, and the Oregon Repertory Singers.
  • Duke Ellington and his accomplished arranger, Billy Strayhorn, created a jazzy Nutcracker Suite complete with new names such as “Sugar Rum Cherry” (Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy) and “Toot Toot Tootie Toot” (Dance of the Reed-Pipes)
  • Praise for Jenny Schuler: “Schuler has a sumptuous soprano, vocal stamina, and a talent for mixing high drama with the comic.” – Bloomington Herald Times; “Schuler is a vivid presence on the stage, conveying powerful passions with her rich, shimmering voice and beautiful, mobile face.” – Winston-Salem Journal
  • Portland native Siena Licht Miller’s versatile operatic career – she has sung roles by John Adams, Britten, Ravel, Mozart, and Puccini – is coupled with noteworthy performances on concert and recital stages. A 2016 Marilyn Horne Rubin Scholar, she has sung in master classes led by Renée Fleming and Plácido Domingo. Ms. Miller makes her Oregon Symphony debut with these performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

More Background Info and Photos:

On the Oregon Symphony: orsymphony.org

On Jenny Schuler: jennyschuler.com

On Siena Licht Miller: operaphila.org/opera-lab/emerging-artists-2018-2019

On the Oregon Repertory Singers: orsingers.org

On the Pacific Youth Choir: pacificyouthchoir.org

On PSU Choirs: pdx.edu/music/choirs

Tickets: begin at $35



Tickets for all concerts can be purchased online at orsymphony.org; or in person at the Oregon Symphony Ticket Office located at 909 SW Washington St., Portland, OR 97205.

Ticket Office Hours

July–August: (Mon–Fri, 10 am–6 pm); by phone at 503-228-1353 (Mon–Fri, 10 am–9 pm).

September–June (Mon–Sat, 10 am–6 pm); by phone at 503-228-1353 (Mon–Fri, 10 am–9 pm, Sat 10 am–6pm); and at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall starting two hours before every performance.

Season subscriptions, including the popular Choose Your Own packages and Gift Cards, are available through the Symphony Ticket Office at 503-228-1353.



The multi-Grammy-nominated Oregon Symphony ranks as one of America’s major orchestras. Led by Music Director Carlos Kalmar, it serves over 300,000 people annually through more than 110 performances and award-winning education and community engagement programs. Now in its 123rd year, the Oregon Symphony is the oldest orchestra west of the Mississippi.

The Symphony’s ground-breaking 2017/18 Season set box office and fundraising records and was marked by an initiative to connect more deeply with the Portland community. The organization embarked on the year-long Sounds of Home series, which revolutionized the role of the arts in addressing three of the most critical social issues of the day: immigration, the environment, and homelessness. This series made a powerful impact in the community through innovative art, cross-sector partnerships with 37 organizations, and civic leadership. Sounds of Home community concerts hosted in venues across the city reached nearly 3,000 attendees and were viewed by thousands more through live streaming on social media.

The Symphony reached over 15 million radio broadcast listeners in the 2017/18 Season via All Classical Portland as well as American Public Media’s SymphonyCast and Performance Today. The season additionally featured three world premieres, including the first-ever play commissioned by an American orchestra.

Photos for media use are available at orsymphony.org/newsroom.

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