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ESYO Rewind! Sleigh Ride Holiday Spectacular

A Look Back at ESYO's First-ever Holiday Spectacular

On Sunday, December 19, 2021, at Proctors Theatre, the Empire State Youth Orchestra's Symphony, Youth Jazz, and Chamber Orchestras took a magical musical sleigh ride around the world. Together, with a live audience of over a thousand guests, the young musicians celebrated the holidays with sparkling holiday favorites, Christmas carols, and seasonal masterpieces by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and more.

Were you there?  Get social and share your photos and experience online.  Don't forget to tag @empirestateyo on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

CBS 6 Albany's Annual Melodies of Christmas is a fun family holiday tradition for ESYO and the community. While the COVID-19 pandemic paused the live Melodies of Christmas performances for a second year, ESYO believed a soundtrack to the holidays was essential to our musicians and the community.

Music brings hope, joy, and light to the world and is the perfect accompaniment to the holiday season. With the help of David Bebe and our good friend, Helen Cha-Pyo, ESYO's first-ever holiday spectacular came together in record time.

Preparations for Sleigh Ride began shortly after the start of the new season. With only four rehearsals before the concert, each musician made the most of each session, taking notes while invested countless hours at home practicing and preparing each piece.  Helen Cha-Pyo inspired and empowered each musician to do their best.

Inspired by the talent of ESYO's young musicians, American Idol finalist (and Shaker Grad) Madison VanDenburg volunteered her time to perform her new holiday single, The Light of Christmas with ESYO. Madison stopped by the first rehearsal to meet each member and talk about the meaning of her new song.  Madison took time during break to chat with her neighbor and ESYO violinist, Cadence.

A festive mood quickly swept across each ensemble as musicians decorated their instruments with bows, hats, and stockings. On Saturday, December 18, ESYO's Symphony, Youth Jazz, and Chamber Orchestras came to rehearsal dressed and ready to spread Christmas cheer.

Based on the story The Magic Musical Sleigh Ride" by award-winning author Vick Addesso Dobb, the concert featured a vintage sleigh hand restored by Jon James from Schoharie. The musical story invited everyone to experience the magic of the holidays the chance to experience the holidays through the eyes of a child.

The story led the audience to the orchestral premiere of Madison VanDenburg's The Light of Christmas with ESYO's Symphony Orchestra.  The beautful song brought an important message that The Light of Christmas is about hope, togetherness, and seeing the world from a place of love

Written by multi-platinum songwriters Kenny Lamb and Anthony Little, the Light of Christmas was orchestrated for ESYO by composer Susumu Wantanabe.   Before the concert, ESYO Symphony Orchestra and Madison VanDenburg recorded a music video at Proctors. 

In addition to Madison's new holiday single, Sleigh Ride featured sweet holiday melodies and ESYO' new Chamber Orchestra made their debut performing Vaughn Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves. The ESYO Youth Jazz Orchestra opened the concert with a funky Christmas tune and later teamed up to perform Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride with ESYO's Symphony Orchestra.  The percussionists were prepped and ready to perform the iconic piece. 

Santa and "Jingles" the stage elf made frequent appearances with Annabelle and Elliot who helped the narrator tell the story of the Magical Music Sleigh Ride.  The audience swayed and chuckled when Elliot and Annabelle enticed Jingles to skate to Waldteufel's Skater’s Waltz. 

But the true star of the show was Mo "The Reindog" and all the young musicians who brought joy and smiles to over 1,000 people who came out to enjoy to enjoy an afternoon filled with holiday cheer. 

This performance would not have been possible without the support of donors like you, Proctors, the Schenectady County Legislature, as well as ESYO's 2021-2022 Season sponsors, the Times Union, Albany Medical Center, and the New York State Council on the Arts.



Take a Magical Musical Sleigh Ride on Christmas Day and let ESYO be the soundtrack to your Christmas morning. Watch the full concert stream on your computer, smartphone, or tablet and webcast to your Smart TV in ESYO's Virtual Concert Hall.