By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
For 21 years, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s holiday shows have been a family tradition. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, TSO will go on, but in a different way.
The performance will be beamed into fans’ homes with the world premiere of its first livestream, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories Live in Concert,” on Friday, December 18. For fans unable to view the livestream’s debut on December 18, TSO will make the performance available for streaming on demand through midnight Sunday, December 20.
“We miss being at Gila River (Arena),” says TSO’s music director and lead guitarist Al Pitrelli. “There was nothing better than getting off the bus and it being 80 degrees in the middle of the winter.
“This is the first time in 21 years that we’ve canceled a show. We’ve never canceled a show. We never missed a downbeat. A lot of weird things have happened—tractor-trailer accidents, snowstorms, ice storms, hurricanes—but we’ve never missed a downbeat. The fact that we’re talking about it remains surreal to me.”
TSO performing an all-new staging of its beloved album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” means that fans, despite missing so much in 2020, won’t have to miss their favorite holiday tradition. This livestream will inject much-needed rockin’ Christmas spirit to fans everywhere. In addition to the full album concert, fans will view special preshow content including behind-the-scenes footage and classic interview segments.
“Christmas Eve and Other Stories” is set on Christmas Eve when a young angel is sent to earth to bring back what is best representative of humanity. Following favorite TSO themes of “strangers helping strangers” and “the kindness of others,” “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” takes listeners all over the world to help reunite a young girl with her distraught father.
“Everybody loves this,” Pitrelli says. “We have this incredible story Paul O’Neill wrote. People love it so much, and I love it. I’m proud that we’re going to celebrate.”
The livestream is a live performance, while many are prerecorded. Pitrelli says the band has “one swing at the plate for this.” He calls it the TSO’s most important show.
“There will be no overdubs, no postproduction. There will be narration and special effects. It’s quite a task, but we’re ready for it. Forget about the livelihood of part of touring. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing since 1965. Don’t take that part away from me.
“Put my guitar around my neck and let me go. Would I prefer doing 120 shows this year? Absolutely. But it’s not going to happen. Fans can turn it up loud and proud.”
Before founder Paul O’Neill died, he gave Pitrelli a bit of advice that resonates today.
“He told us to adapt, overcome and improvise,” he recalls. “It’s a little different, but it still applies. This happened to the planet. It’s not any one country or people. All of us are in the same boat.”
The livestream is blending the East and West Coast touring members. Pitrelli says there are some musicians and singers he hasn’t performed with in 21 years. For the livestream, Bryan Hicks will narrate and Pitrelli (guitar) and Derek Wieland (keyboards) will serve as musical directors. The band will feature Chris Caffery (guitar), Mee Eun Kim (keyboards), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass), Asha Mevlana (violin) and Jeff Plate (drums). Vocalists will be Russell Allen, Nate Amor, John Brink, Erika Jerry, Chloe Lowery, Georgia Napolitano and Jeff Scott Soto.
“From my vantage point, instead of looking out at an area, seeing 16,000 people, I’m going to see 14 cameras,” he adds.
“It’s going to be different for me. I’m going to close my eyes and pretend I’m in front of you people and having the time of our lives. Everyone on stage is familiar. Different is what happens when normal goes out the window.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” 8 p.m. Eastern Time Friday, December 18, tsolivestream.com/tso/livestream, $30.