Chicago Symphony Center premieres It’s a Wonderful Life with live orchestra

| December 7, 2016

Chicago Symphony Center celebrates the 2016 holiday season with myriad musical programs offering audiences of all ages and tastes a chance to share unique, family-friendly events and treasured traditions continuing through December 23.  

Returning favorites include acclaimed vocal groups Chanticleer and the Vienna Boys Choir performing seasonal favorites, as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass in their much-anticipated annual concert appearance.  The CSO’s newest holiday tradition, Merry, Merry Chicago!, is back by popular demand this year and features Broadway’s Ashley Brown with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Children’s Choir in a festive program filled with some of the season’s most familiar favorites. Two classic film presentations were also part of the roster of holiday programs. Conductor Richard Kaufman led the CSO in John Williams’ score for Steven Spielberg’s E.T.,The Extra-Terrestrial and conductor Justin Freer leads members of the CSO and Chorus in Dmitri Tiomkin’s score for Frank Capra’s beloved It’s a Wonderful Life.  All performances take place, unless otherwise noted, at Symphony Center, located at 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Complete holiday programming information is available at

Guest conductor Justin Freer leads Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus in performances of Frank Capra’s heartwarming holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert on December 9, at 7:00 p.m., December 10, at 3:00 p.m., and December 11, at 3:00 p.m. It’s A Wonderful Life, nominated for five Academy Awards® including Best Picture, will be screened in a newly-restored version, accompanied by the complete version of Dimitri Tiomkin’s score performed live. The iconic 1946 American film chronicles the tale of frustrated businessman George Bailey, portrayed by Academy Award®-winner Jimmy Stewart, as he is shown by an angel what the world might have been like if he had never existed, ultimately finding new meaning and joy when he is reunited with his family.

The incomparable Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Brass offers its thrilling annual concert on Wednesday, December 14, at 8:00 p.m. Known for its power and precision, the CSO Brass performs traditional brass repertoire and symphonic masterworks. Among selections highlighting the power and beauty of this extraordinary ensemble are works by Bernstein (Presto Barbaro from On the Waterfront), Debussy (Fanfare from The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian), Poulenc (Four Small Prayers of St. Francis of Assisi) and Henri Tomasi (Liturgical Fanfares).

The CSO’s newest holiday tradition Merry, Merry Chicago! returns in its second year for six performances from December 16 to 23  A festive celebration of seasonal music, Merry, Merry Chicago! takes place in the beautifully decorated Orchestra Hall and is perfect for audiences of all ages. This year’s program features members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as 160 voices from the acclaimed Chicago Children’s Choir and special guest vocalist Ashley Brown, led by guest conductor Emil de Cou. Brown, who originated the title role of Mary Poppins on Broadway, joins a host of voices from the Chicago Children’s Choir for unforgettable renditions of treasured classics such as “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night.” Other program highlights include members of the CSO performing selections from Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker Suite and opportunities for the audience to join the musical celebration for familiar songs such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” as well as a special cameo appearance from a certain jolly figure certain to bring smiles to all!   

A time-honored tradition at Symphony Center, the Vienna Boys Choir returns to perform Christmas in Vienna, a matinee program filled with classic carols, traditional folk songs and holiday sing-a-long favorites on Tuesday, December 20, at 3:00 p.m. The beloved choir was founded more than 500 years ago and is known for its polished sound, irresistible charm and mastery of a wide range of repertoire, from music of the Renaissance to contemporary works.

Throughout the choir’s history, the talented boys of the ensemble have worked with such musical luminaries as Mozart, Gluck and Bruckner, and the choir once counted Franz Schubert as one of its singers. Today’s chorus consists of 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14, divided into four touring choirs that travel throughout Europe, Asia and North America, performing more than 300 concerts for nearly half a million people each year.

Tickets for all CSO-presented holiday programs can be purchased by phone at 800-223-7114 or 312-294-3000; online at, or at the Symphony Center box office: 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60604.

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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