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Holiday Traditions at the DSO

Memory-Making Experiences in Midtown Detroit

There’s nothing like walking into The Max around the holidays.

A five-foot wreath welcomes you in from Woodward Avenue as you enter The Max. In the Atrium, you sip on a hot cup of cocoa while you wait for photos with Santa and admire the lights, gilded Christmas tree, menorah, and kinara. As you head into historic Orchestra Hall, you are embraced by the warm ambience of glowing chandeliers and velvet touches. The holiday moments we treasure fill us with wonder and remind us of beauty. Hearing the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform beloved holiday hits ranks at the top of must-do lists for families, friends, and solo adventurers (treat yourself!).  

Orchestra Hall is alive with memories-in-making. If you’ve joined us before, you know you’re welcome to sing along to Home Alone in Concert and the Home for the Holidays classics. This year, you can also experience new offerings including Voctave: It Feels Like ChristmasElf in Concert, and The Music of The Nutcracker! Learn more about our holiday programming at dso.org/holiday.

Traditions are born of the experiences that stay with us long after we leave the concert hall. Patron Ali Reda Jeafar shares:

The first time I went to Home for the Holidays for a school event back in 2016 was the first time I ever attended a DSO concert. The magic of that day has kept me coming back and I became a subscriber. Home for the Holidays is a treasure for me every year I go. ”

Ali Reda Jeafar

One of his favorite Home for the Holidays memories was when Santa Claus sat down onstage to read a story about Christmas spirit and cheer as the orchestra played. “I truly felt my Christmas spirit rekindled after that day,” said Jeafar.   

A more recent experience for Jeafar was when the concertmaster performed an arrangement for solo violin and orchestra of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  

“It was just magical. The violin playing, the orchestral background, the lighting, the mood, I felt my spirit being taken from my body and sent out on an enchanted adventure that has forever left an imprint on my soul.”

Since joining the orchestra in 1976, Assistant Principal Bass Stephen Molina has played countless programs, and works written across centuries, but holidays at the DSO are always special to him and we’re playing one of his favorite holiday works this season for the first time in 20 years.

Performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and the beautiful music of Handel’s Messiah are always something I love to play. It’s also fun to see so many families enjoying the film during Home Alone in Concert and the holiday songs at our Home for the Holidays pops concerts. Christmas is a joyful time, especially for kids, and it’s great to see them at our concerts in December. ”

Stephen Molina, DSO Assistant Principal Bass

The music of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is iconic and features an instrument practically unknown at the time the ballet was written. Invented in 1886, the celesta is a keyboard instrument with hammers that strike orchestral bells, and Tchaikovsky envisioned it to be the perfect sound for the memorable solo heard in Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. Shrouded in intrigue, some say the instrument was smuggled into Russia from Paris. The composer requested his publisher to acquire a celesta in secret, writing "I have discovered a new instrument in Paris...with a divinely beautiful tone." He requested, “have it sent direct to Petersburg; but no one there must know about it. I am afraid Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazounov might hear of it and make use of the new effect before I could. I expect the instrument will make a tremendous sensation.” 

While often heard played in scaled down pit orchestras, the DSO will be performing the entire score the way it was meant to be heard with full and magnificent orchestration on December 20 at Orchestra Hall. 

Take a peek at the string section when you visit Orchestra Hall in December and you might catch Stephen’s bass dressed up for the occasion. 

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DSO musicians and twin siblings, Cole Randolph (cello) and Harper Randolph (viola, African American Orchestra Fellow), will be sharing the stage together for the DSO's holiday performances this season. They are most looking forward to the annual Home Alone in Concert program—one of their favorite holiday movies from childhood. Performing together onstage with the DSO is always a cherished moment for the Randolph siblings, because "it’s always nice to know you can look over at one another and see a smiling face looking back at you." 

Come experience the magic of the holiday season with the DSO. Explore holiday events below, and purchase tickets at dso.org/holiday.

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