Musical Traditions

Published 6:49 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Michael Veldman and Friends, Austin Symphony Orchestra coming together for a one-of-a-kind holiday show


To this day, some may remember standing in line, waiting for the Paramount Theatre box office to open so they could get their tickets for the popular annual holiday show, Michael Veldman and Friends.

Austin Symphony Orchestra Conductor Stephen J. Ramsey certainly remembers the challenge the show created for their own performance when that day came.

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“We admired their success from afar,” Ramsey with a wry smile. “Some would call it competition, trying to do holiday concerts on the same weekend.”

“It’s all said with the best of humor,” Ramsey added.

Ramsey, the members of Michael Veldman and Friends and ASO officials met Monday night to plan a uniquely collaborative show, which will combine two rich musical traditions on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Michael Veldman and Friends ran for 11 successful years starting in 1997, however, it’s been a number of years since the holiday show was held.

Combining the natures of Michael Veldman and Friends and the ASO was a natural decision.

“Nothing breeds success like success. Let’s work together,” Ramsey said. “Most all of us admire their wonderful connection with their audience. It’s something we desperately need within the artistic community during the holiday season.”

Members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra stand to be recognized following a performance. Photo provided

However, this isn’t a new idea. Martha Chancellor first approached the organizations about a combined performance in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic proved a spoiler and kept pushing the event back.

It was an idea that was embraced by Michael Veldman and Friends.

“We were just honored,” said Veldman, the group’s namesake who shares the stage with Erin Schumacher, Kaye Perry and Brian Bawek. “We were surprised and as I’ve always said, what an honor to be working with a fine group of professional musicians.”

That’s a sentiment that flows throughout the group, who jumped at the chance to share a stage one more time.

“It’s so nostalgic for us,” Schumacher said. “We’ve always been a tight knit group. To have a reason to come together again is just fulfilling. It’s good to reconnect. It’s been really good.”

The foursome and the ASO will share the stage for most of the night, but there will also be times when they perform apart. The symphony will play two overtures on their own and Michael Veldman and Friends will perform three numbers.

While the ASO has worked often in vocal talents in the past, this will be a first for the foursome who have never worked with live musicians. In the past, all of the music used was from a recording. It makes the experience more of a gift.

“I never thought I would be here without getting emotional,” Bawek said. “I spent a lot of time here listening to the symphony growing up.”

Either way, the musical challenge, as it were, of combining the two forms of music remains.

“The challenges are the same as they are for any live performance,” Ramsey said. “It’s mastering all the issues of musicianship. It’s making sure we are together at the same time doing the same thing.”

Nothing past Dec. 11’s performance is set as to whether or not this might be an annual event. For the time being, both sides are content to put together a one-of-a-kind show.

“A mutual audition,” Ramsey said. “It’s an opportunity for two diverse organizations to see if they can blend their cultures and if they can, we’ll talk about the future.”

“We’re hoping to build a community and build togetherness when civility is hard to come by sometimes,” he added.

What is known is that this is the right show for right now.

“I can’t think of a better time, especially with the quality of the singing, nature of the music and the spirit of the season. It all comes together in a very special way,” said Phil Burkhart, ASO operations manager.

Tickets are currently on sale at Hy-Vee and The Coffeehouse on Main as well as online at Tickets are $20 ahead of the show and $25 at the door. Tickets are free for youth through college. The show will be held at Austin High School’s Knowlton Auditorium. Doors will open at 1:15 p.m. and the show will begin at 2 p.m.

“We anticipate a really good ticket sale for this concert,” Burkhart said. “We encourage you if you’re interested to get your tickets now.”