Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BasSOON It Will Be Christmas

Each year the Columbus Symphony performs three very popular Holiday Pops concerts with the Columbus Symphony Chorus and the Columbus Children's Chorus.  Conductor Ronald J. Jenkins also invites special guest artists each year such as dancers from BalletMet Academy and Wright State University, and there's always an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Columbus Symphony Holiday Pops performance
The production is always a crowd-pleaser, but Holiday Pops 2013 took the cake.  Why?  Well, this year Maestro Jenkins discovered a delightful piece to add to the program called BasSOON It Will Be Christmas by James Stephenson.  Columbus Symphony bassoonist Douglas Fisher and I performed the solo bassoon parts in front of the orchestra.
Photo: Bassoon It Will Be Christmas!
Columbus Symphony rehearsal of BasSOON It Will Be Christmas

James Stephenson
Chicago-based composer James Stephenson was a trumpeter in the Naples Philharmonic for 17 years before becoming a full-time composer.  He is currently Composer-in-Residence for the Lake Forest Symphony, and his works have been performed by the nation's leading orchestras.  BasSOON It Will Be Christmas is written for either two or three solo bassoons and orchestra.  Well-known Christmas carols are cleverly interwoven with major bassoon excerpts and the first movement of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto.  There's even a cadenza in which the opening of Tchaikowsky Symphony No. 6 makes an appearance.  Here is a recording of the entire work (3 bassoon version) from James Stephenson's website.  And here is a recording of the Columbus Symphony performing the 2 bassoon version.   The bassoons were not miked or amplified in the Columbus Symphony recording.

Not all excerpts are presented in original form.  Do you recognize the excerpt in the last line?

Ending of BasSOON It Will Be Christmas

 A few years ago the Jacksonville Symphony found a very imaginative way to offer holiday wishes to its fans featuring an excerpt from BasSOON It Will Be Christmas:

It's highly uncommon for bassoonists to be featured as soloists on pops concerts, much less on holiday pops concerts, but judging by the enthusiastic audience response, I'd say it's a worthwhile endeavor.  Thank you, James Stephenson, for composing this holiday gem, a welcome addition to our solo orchestral repertoire and thank you, Ron Jenkins, for featuring bassoons on this year's Holiday Pops!

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Anonymous said...

They just performed that piece in Ft. Worth with three bassoons and LED lighting!

B.S. said...

Hi Paul - Wow! It would be great if this piece could become standard rep for holiday concerts. What a great way to introduce the bassoon(s) to the audience!


Tina B. said...

I LOLed a couple times... Awesome PR for a fabulous bassoon section!!

I won't give it away, I'll just say, wrong clef?? ;)

B.S. said...

Great detective work, Tina! And I agree that this is great bassoon PR.


Amy said...


B.S. said...

Fun for sure!