The Trans-Siberian Orchestra • A Holiday Show Like No Other.
I remember the first time I was heading out to see this band. They were recommended by our friends. I had never heard of them. I expected, as the name implies, an orchestra from Russia. I was blown away!
The band is made up of young rock musicians. The guitarists are from various metal bands from the eighties. The tour that I saw included Testament's Alex Skolnick and Chris Caffery from Savatage, metal bands that had huge success in the 90's (both bands are still working today). The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1993 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill (who was one of the keyboardists on this tour). O'Neill has impressive credentials, managing and producing such bands as: Aerosmith, Humble Pie (one of my favourites), AC/DC, Joan Jett, and The Scorpions. Another guitarist, Al Pitrelli, who also played with Savatage at the time, was instrumental in the formation of the project. Paul O'Neill brought together Pitrelli, Jon Oliva (also a member of Savatage) and Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team.
The music is intriguing, melding original songs with standard Christmas fare. For example, in the middle of An Angel Came Down, they weave into an instrumental version of Silent Night, then move back into An Angel Came Down to finish the song. I was captivated by the powerfulness of the lyrics, arrangements, and instrumentation, not to mention the spectacular light show and visual effects. There are a number of musicians involved. During that first show, I counted five female vocalists, five male vocalists, an entire string section (that was on loan from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, kind of ironic, since the shortened name for both orchestras is TSO), the two guitarists mentioned above, a violinist (in this show, Mark Wood, who had released a number of shred albums for Shrapnel Records), drums, bass and two keyboardists.
As a musician, I tend to analyze everything, including the cost of production for an undertaking of this size. The road crew required to set up the massive stage and extensive lighting and pyrotechnics display, the huge number of musicians that must be paid, and most of all the short window of time to have the tour on the road. The holiday season is not very long. It was not until later, that I found out they have assembled TWO entire touring bands, one to do the east coast and one to do the west. A HUGE undertaking! If you have not had the pleasure of witnessing this spectacle, I strongly suggest you do so. I have attended for four seasons.
The show also inspired me to put together my own production 'A Life Of Christmas' (on a much small scale, of course). I followed their format of mixing narration and song.
Below I have included some of my favourite songs from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums. I hope you have a listen. For me, these songs changed the way I will think of Christmas music forever.
Old City Bar
Five years since their last release, Trans-Siberian Orchestra return with a double album of all new material, entitled 'Nightcastle'. 'Nightcastle' is the Capra- esque story of someone changing their life for the better. The physical version of the album includes a 68 full color illustrated booklet.
Christmas Canon Rock
Christmas Canon Rock
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Wizards In Winter
Oh Come All Ye Faithful / Oh Holy Night
Hard rock producer Paul O'Neill, renowned for his work with Aerosmith and Savatage, teamed with the latter band's Jon Oliva to create Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an inspired fusion of classical music and rock-opera pageantry. Their first two releases are visionary and timeless Christmas-themed concept albums, spotlighting lead guitars and classical string sections alike, and they became instant contemporary holiday classics. 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve, which completes their symphonic rock Yuletide triology, underscores Billboard's recent comment that TSO "seems to be turning into a Christmas tradition."