GLENWOOD SPRINGS and RIFLE, Colorado - The Western Slope is beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, as Symphony in the Valley hosts its annual holiday concerts this weekend.
The 20th annual holiday event, "Tchaikovsky in Christmas," features "Dances from the Nutcracker Suite" ballet.
"The audience should expect a varied program," said Symphony in the Valley conductor Carlos Elias. "We will feature music from Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker Suite' ballet, as well as Christmas music favorites."
Elias said the music chosen for the concerts is an appropriate segue into the holiday season celebration.
"I usually try to feature a composer, and this year I chose Tchaikovsky," he said. "I decided to include Christmas music to start getting people in the Christmas mood."
The program also features well-loved orchestral Christmas settings, including festive pieces by Leroy Anderson. Jack Lanning will lead the symphony and audience in a rendition of the holiday favorite, "White Christmas."
"Jack is a member of the board of Symphony in the Valley, a good advocate for the symphony and a great singer," Elias said. "It was an obvious choice to feature him as part of our program."
Over the past five years, Elias has been the symphony's music director, bringing international music experience to the valley-wide ensemble. He has performed in solo recitals and in orchestras in the U.S., El Salvador, Argentina, Bulgaria and Japan.
Along with directing Symphony in the Valley, Elias is director of strings and orchestra at Colorado Mesa University and concertmaster of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra. He is continually impressed with the level of talent in the Symphony in the Valley.
"I think that the orchestra is getting better and better in each concert," he said. "I have seen the improvement of the orchestra throughout the five years that I have been their music director."
Comprised wholly of volunteer musicians, Symphony in the Valley is a prime example of the community working together to bring world-class arts to the public, Elias said.
"All the members of the orchestra are local musicians who donate their time and effort every week to produce these concerts," he said.
The Symphony in the Valley presents four sets of concerts throughout the year. Next up is Symphony Swing, an evening of Big Band and swing-era music with the symphony's jazz orchestra, presented in Rifle on Feb. 22 and in Carbondale on Feb. 23.
The symphony also hosts concerts in October, and each May with the much-anticipated Mother's Day shows. The 2013 Mother's Day performances will take place in Rifle and Glenwood Springs on May 11-12, and will feature winners of the 2013 Young Artists Concerto Competition.
Elias said his commitment to helping continue community symphony music in the Roaring Fork Valley is affirmed as he watches the musicians develop each concert from square one.
"I enjoy the process of preparing the orchestra from the first rehearsal to the concert and see the weekly improvement," he said.