December 19-20, 2007: Santa Claus appeared as guest soloist with the Northwest Indiana Symphony and Chorus under the baton of maestro Kirk Muspratt in concerts at the Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville, Indiana, and at the Raue Center Theater in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Santa surprised and delighted conductor, orchestra and choir members, and audiences alike, by playing classical accordion.
Santa as guest accordionist with the Northwest Indiana Symphony and Chorus.
Click on image to enlarge. Photographs by Larry Mickow, Jr.
Santa showcased his accordion artistry in two pieces from Henry Doktorski's A Classical Christmas CD: (1) Ave Maria in an arrangement by Doktorski for accordion, violin and harp (assisted by NWIS concertmaster Pasquale Laurino and principal harpist Kara Bershad) and (2) Dance on Jingle Bells for accordion and orchestra, also arranged by Doktorski.
Doktorski—who very curiously happened to be at both concerts and was seen selling his accordion CDs at a table in the lobby—met Santa backstage and had a few friendly words with the jolly old elf:I wanted to speak with Santa before his first concert, so I looked for him backstage, but couldn't find him, until I happened to open a service door which led outside to a loading dock. Imagine my surprise when I spied Santa sitting quietly on a chair outside in the frigid sub-freezing weather!Maestro Kirk Muspratt agreed with Doktorski's critique, and personally thanked Santa by e-mail: "It was a pleasure having you here! We love your accordion playing!"
I exclaimed, "Santa! What's going on? Why are you sitting out here in the freezing cold?" Santa welcomed me with a "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and explained that his thermal insulated suit was not intended for indoor use, especially under hot stage lights. He was waiting for his call outside in the cold to prevent excessive perspiration. "I would get a nasty chill returning to the North Pole if my suit was soaked with sweat!"
During the concerts (which I thoroughly enjoyed) Santa had a really great time performing with the symphony, but he had a couple of unexpected challenges. He discovered during the first concert that his beard was so fluffy that he couldn't see his right-hand keyboard! He said: "There were a few dangerous right-hand leaps in the Ave Maria, but I just had to close my eyes and hope for the best!"
Then, during the second concert at Crystal Lake, Santa's long flowing beard accidentally got caught somehow on the left-hand manual, and as he opened the bellows wide, his flowing beard followed the left hand and it almost appeared to pull off of his face for a brief moment! Santa, quick as a wink, reached over with his right hand and pulled his beard off of the left-hand manual. I'm sure it must have been uncomfortable to have his beard pulled like that!
Despite these unexpected complications, Santa's performances were terrific! Ave Maria was extremely poignant and beautiful, and Dance on Jingle Bells was rollicking and frolicking! It was a great pleasure for me to meet Santa face to face and personally hear him play in concert. He is actually quite good on accordion; a fine player indeed!
While in town, Doktorski performed for students at East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School in Gary, Indiana. Click here to see photo.
Santa appears and greets audience
Santa walks onstage amid orchestral introduction and audience applause
Santa playfully taps arm of cellist, to the obvious delight of a double bass player
Santa chats with maestro Kirk Muspratt:
"Sorry for the delay, Kirk; my sleigh's in the shop for its annual billion-mile checkup.
I had to rent a car and got stuck in traffic on I-65."
Santa performs Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod)
Santa had some unexpected wardrobe/beard malfunctions
Santa gratefully acknowledges audience applause and shakes hand of concertmaster Pasquale Laurino
Santa makes a hasty exit stage right: "Gotta get back to the North Pole; only 19 days 'till Christmas!"
Doktorski performs for students at East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School in Gary, Indiana.