The Journal Gazette
Monday, December 02, 2019 1:00 am

Five questions for Jim Palermo

Managing director, Philharmonic

1 This is a busy season for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. What performances do the musicians have scheduled in the month ahead?

The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. This year, we kick off the season by traveling throughout the region giving Holiday Pops performances. For many people, this is the only time they may ever hear a live symphony orchestra, so we carefully plan these concerts to be as meaningful and enjoyable as possible. Then we take our seats in the pit at Arts United Center for several performances of Fort Wayne Ballet's “Nutcracker.” This long-standing partnership is one of our most cherished traditions each year. We round out the season with Handel's “Messiah” set to candlelight at First Wayne Street Methodist Church and our own Holiday Pops Series at the glorious Embassy Theatre.


2 Holiday Pops is a Fort Wayne favorite. What's in store for this year's audiences?

Vocalist Doug LaBrecque, star of “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, joins the orchestra and choruses in a program of traditional music, cherished memories and the popular culture of Christmas, with exquisite dancing, Santa and Mrs. Claus, a carol sing-along and the “Hallelujah” chorus. The program is a nice mix of traditional works and contemporary holiday pops hits. We encourage everyone to pull out their favorite Christmas sweater and join us at Fort Wayne's most popular holiday tradition.


3 How important are traditional concerts like the Holiday Pops and Messiah by Candlelight in building the Philharmonic's audience?

These concerts are an entry point to the orchestra for so many people. I think each year about 70% of the audiences at these concerts are brand new to us, so we try as much as possible to ensure that the programs have a “wow” factor. Everyone wants to be entertained and enriched during the holiday season, and that's exactly what we try to do with Holiday Pops and Messiah concerts. Seeing the entire audience rising in song at these performances is absolutely thrilling for all of us at the Philharmonic.


4 You've been a musician was well as an arts administrator – are holiday concerts enjoyable for musicians to perform?

I think so. Musicians love performing for large groups of people, and when audiences are enthusiastic, the orchestra can feel it. It is a real motivator for our musicians when audiences appreciate their artistry and efforts.


5 What holiday music is a must-listen on your personal playlist?

I always go back to John Rutter's wonderful arrangements of Christmas music by the Cambridge Singers, and A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols – the Christmas Eve service held in King's College Chapel in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Then there's the new group called Voces8 – simply magnificent – and the vocal ensemble out of Orlando, Florida, called Voctave. I try to listen to anything they record. I like everything from Bing Crosby to Michael Bublé, but on the more popular side, I fill my ears with Christmas songs sung by the greats – Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, and Perry Como. I know, old school, but they are legendary artists who were fantastic musicians. 

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