Music Director’s Message: Holiday Pops 2017

Holiday Pops, December 16 & 17, 2017

Maybe you’ve heard this definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results. That’s obviously more of a witty quip than a clinical definition, but just for fun, let’s pretend it’s true. Would ‘sanity’ come from doing the same thing and expecting the same results? Is a healthy, happy state of mind the result of repeating certain actions to achieve a predictable, desired outcome? Hmm.

If this is true, perhaps our approach to Holiday celebrations is really part of our quest for sanity. Do you know anybody who purposely celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah differently every year? The very idea seems absurd! There’s comfort in familiar things, and pleasure in anticipating their return. Every family has rituals and traditions for this time of year. Heirloom ornaments festoon the Christmas tree, that crèche Grandma brought from Austria emerges to grace the dining room buffet for a few weeks, a solemn commitment is made to open presents either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, special cookies are baked from recipes handed down over generations, fanciful miniature houses are created from slabs of gingerbread, and so on. They’re different in every family, but in every family, they’re the same from year to year.

In the hectic weeks between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, ‘sanity’ can often seem to be as scarce as a skinny Santa. We seek it under the mistletoe, singing beloved old songs, driving through Sinnissippi Park to see the lights, and a hundred other ways. It’s called nostalgia, and it’s the source of every Holiday tradition. Nostalgia might qualify as one of the basic human emotions: we could live without nostalgic traditions, but who would want to?

Our guests tonight are masters of nostalgia. Five by Design began in the 1980s – five talented singers who created an award-winning act called Radio Days to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World War II, re-creating the radio performances that were so much a part of American life. Hundreds of performances and more than 25 years later they’re still going strong, kindling golden memories for older listeners and introducing new audiences to the evergreen beauty of these great American songs.

Chances are that you’re here tonight because of tradition and nostalgia. For most of you, this isn’t your first RSO Holiday Pops concert. We did our first Holiday concert in 1992, and I’ve been here every year since then; I suspect some of you may have also. After the concert, I’ll drink a toast to your sanity, you drink a toast to mine, and we’ll agree to see each other next year.


Steven Larsen