For Colorado Springs conductor, it's always hectic

By David Sckolnik, Special to the Gazette - Updated: December 16, 2013 at 3:57 pm • Published: December 16, 2013 | 8:00 am 0

Christmas is purported to be the busiest time of the year for an orchestral musician.

For Thomas Wilson, who will conduct the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's "Christmas Symphony" on Sunday, it's no more hectic than any other time of the year.

Wilson is the associate conductor and second trumpet of the philharmonic, for which he just finished conducting four performances of "Nutcracker," as well as the music director of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs. That's not all: He played trumpet with the Colorado College Choir and the Colorado Springs Chorale, conducted the chamber orchestra in two concerts at the Glen Eyrie Castle (with another two to go right after Christmas) and will lead a New Year's Eve concert out of town.

"It's usually about this busy," he claimed recently one morning before heading off to teach trumpet at Colorado College.

This will be the third time he's conducted the philharmonic's Christmas concert, a task that was almost exclusively the domain of Lawrence Leighton Smith until he retired from the orchestra in 2011. Smith died in October.

As usual, the Colorado Springs Chorale will provide the vocal beauty and fireworks for the concert. What's unusual is that this is the last time Don Jenkins, the chorale's conductor for the past 47 years, will prepare his group for the concert. Jenkins is retiring after this season.

The Gazette: What's the idea behind this year's concert?

Thomas Wilson: This year's more choral than any other year and it's really in deference to Don Jenkins. This is his last of these concerts and I wanted to do work with him to do some things he was excited about. He absolutely adores Bach's "Christmas Oratorio," as I do. We wanted to put a healthy portion of that in there. We have to have some "Messiah." And there's a couple of new things. We're including the Randall Alan Bass "Gloria," which is really over the top. Don figures really prominently in all this.

Gazette: I see you're also doing one of Robert Shaw's suites of "The Many Moods of Christmas."

Wilson: That's one that we did quite a few times with Larry (Lawrence Leighton Smith) actually.

Gazette: There's a sense that this entire season is in honor of Don.

Wilson: Well, it should be. He's done great work here for a very long time. We're going to miss him. I couldn't imagine a nicer guy and a more dedicated choral conductor.

Gazette: What's so special about him?

Wilson: He sees the whole picture. He gets it all. He has good interpretations. He knows how to get what he wants and gets it in a nice way. There's nothing bad you can say about him. Each of us has our limitations. Don doesn't seem to have any negatives.

Gazette: I see there's a goodly amount of "Nutcracker" highlights on the program. Is it hard to motivate the orchestra, which just played the whole thing many times during Thanksgiving weekend, to play this "once more with feeling?"

Wilson: I think the level of professionalism has come up considerably in the orchestra. There isn't that problem any longer.

Gazette: What do you hope the audience comes away with from this concert?

Wilson: I want them to have heard a lot of really great music. Some of it is lighter and we get a little deeper in a few places. Hopefully, this will be a balance that they can enjoy. We want them to go away feeling that the chorale and the philharmonic are a part of their Christmas tradition.

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