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Artist Series Concerts Kicks Off The Holidays With PIANO GRAND: The Holiday Edition!

Artist Series Concerts Kicks Off The Holidays With PIANO GRAND: The Holiday Edition!

Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota kicks off the holiday season with an all-new holiday version of "Piano Grand," the sellout concert featuring five Steinway & Sons concert grand pianos played by five top area pianists (Dr. Joseph Holt, Don Bryn, Andrew Lapp, Thomas Purviance and Michael Stewart), Sunday, December 8, 4:00 p.m., at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.

The holiday edition puts a merry and bright twist on classical and popular holiday favorites including Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, and the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria alongside favorite holiday tunes of the season. Reserved seat tickets are $20 to $55; $10 student tickets are available at the door with current student ID. There will be a reception with the musicians immediately following the concert on the second floor of the Opera House.

Tickets for the reception are $35 and include an open bar and refreshments. All tickets are available online at or by calling 941-306-1202.

After three successful seasons of "Piano Grand," the keyboard spectacle where five top pianists tickle the ivories of five majestic Steinway grand pianos with complex arrangements of favorite pieces often created especially for the occasion, one might think that the series had exhausted all available repertoire. "Not quite yet," says Joseph Holt, Director of Artist Programs for Artist Series Concerts. "It's true that there are only so many arrangements out there for multi-piano performances. Coming up with fresh programming is always a challenge, as well as a bit of a scavenger hunt. This year's holiday theme gave us a fun and whole new pianistic playground to explore." The result is an uplifting and uniquely "digital" celebration of winter and the arrival of the holiday season.

As in seasons past, the first half of the program will feature the more classical selections, including the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, a lilting version of Vivaldi's Sento in seno ch'in pioggia di lagrime and of course, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. The second half will take audiences on a merry musical sleigh ride through such light popular holiday favorites as a Bells of Christmas medley (Silver Bells, Jingle Bells, Ding Dong Merrily on High and more), O Come, All Ye Faithful, (a Christmas Fantasy), and of course Leroy Anderson's iconic Sleigh Ride. And be ready for more of the props, audience participation and "musical chairs" between the musicians that have also become a signature feature of "Piano Grand." "Last season we had our 'cannon fire' created with popcorn bags for the 1812 Overture. The year before that, it was our LED illuminated sneakers and ties," recalls Holt. "This year? Who knows?! But audience members should definitely arrive with voices warmed up for some singing."

Dr. Joseph Holt has enjoyed a wide-ranging musical career as conductor, pianist, chamber music performer, arts administrator, educator and arranger. He served more than 20 years as principal pianist with the United States Army Chorus, performing for U.S. presidents, military officials and dignitaries from around the world. Joining Holt are pianist, composer, and arranger Don Bryn, who has worked with such celebrated performers as Burt Bacharach, Lorna Luft, Nestor Torres, John Raitt, Jim Nabors, and Charo; Steinway Artist and composer Andrew Lapp who tours nationally and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2010; educator and Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff virtuoso Thomas Purviance; and Michael Stewart, who is on the faculty of Manatee School for the Arts and the pianist for Choral Artists of Sarasota.

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