Rockefeller Christmas concert to get the big band treatment

Tuesday December 4, 2018Doug Osborne-Coy
singers in Christmas costumes

Rockefeller Arts Center continues its holiday pops tradition with “The 2018 Big Band Christmas Spectacular” on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in King Concert Hall.

It is the third edition of the popular big band holiday showcase, following up concerts in 2012 and 2014. The concert will feature 14 brand-new numbers, along with five of the most popular numbers from previous big band holiday shows.

Rockefeller Arts Center Director Jefferson Westwood is the producer.

“Some people have been asking me what makes this show a ‘Spectacular’ as opposed to any other Christmas big band concert,” Mr. Westwood said. “I guess my reply is the $6,000 worth of special curtains and stage decor, the costumes, the special lighting, all the dancing - six dances is more than we have ever done before - and the special effects we are working on.”

Swing will be the style for the evening with the 17-piece Fredonia Jazz Orchestra, under the director of Dr. Nick Weiser, who is head of Jazz Studies at Fredonia. The Fredonia Jazz Orchestra is the new name for the curricular jazz ensemble of the School of Music. The 17 students in the band have been rehearsing every Wednesday night since the beginning of the semester. 

“They are playing at a very professional level,” Mr. Westwood said. “There will be two additional percussionists, playing timpani, orchestra chimes, glockenspiel, xylophone and vibraphone, and four student French horn players will be joining the ensemble for Stan Kenton's ‘12 days of Christmas’ which is a very rousing rendition of this well-known tune.”

Tickets are available through the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at

In addition to his duties as a teacher and director of Jazz Studies at Fredonia, Dr. Weiser maintains an active national and international performing schedule with credits including touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and performing at Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy; Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival; and most recently, the Santiago de Cuba International Jazz Festival.

A dozen student performers – six vocalists and six dancers – will be featured with vocal solos, vocal quartets and dance selections choreographed by Paula Peters and Paul Mockovak of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

The first half of the concert features selections from “The Nutcracker Suite” choreographed by Ms. Peters.

Ms. Peters, an assistant professor of Dance, is the director for the Fredonia Dance Ensemble’s Merrins Chamber Series, which made its debut in early November with three sold-out performances. Her choreography has been presented at Men In Dance, Cornish Dance Theater, the University of Washington, MuCCC, BOOSTmeUp Festival, American College Dance Association and the International Dance Day in Byblos, Lebanon.

The second half of the show features choreography by Mr. Mockovak on “Sleigh Ride,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Christmas Waltz.”

Mr. Mockovak has done choreography for the previous Big Band Christmas concerts and his recent Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance credits as a director include “Chicago,” “Godspell,” “The Laramie Project,” “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

A special addition to “The 2018 Big Band Christmas Spectacular” will be a number featuring the 35-voice middle school choir from Westfield Academy and Central School under the direction of Kent Knappenberger, a Fredonia alumnus who was the winner the first-ever GRAMMY Award in the category of music educator in 2014.

A variety of Christmas favorites will be given the big band treatment, including: “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the Count Basie version of “Jingle Bells,” selections from “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and many more.

“The 2018 Big Band Christmas Spectacular” is a DFT Communications Pops Series event sponsored by Bahgat and Laurito-Bahgat, Certified Public Accountants, as part of the 2018-19 Lake Shore Savings Season.

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