National Chamber Ensemble performs ‘Holiday Cheer’ concert in Arlington

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Chamber Ensemble's 'Holiday Cheer' (Part 1)

Last month, the National Chamber Ensemble held a timely concert to mark the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht amid the recent rise of antisemitic rhetoric in America.

This Saturday, the ensemble performs “Holiday Cheer” at 7:30 p.m. in Arlington, Virginia.

“It’s the finest classical masterpieces and holiday favorites,” Artistic Director Leo Sushansky told WTOP. “Everybody gets to start the holiday season on a joyful note.”

The program begins with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and “Chanukkah Festival.”

“‘Chanukkah Festival’ is a piece for all strings, an arrangement of the most popular Chanukkah tunes, folk songs and popular selections, it’s really a medley,” Sushansky said. “‘Sleigh Ride,’ you have the bells and whips. There’s an instrument called the whip; it’s two pieces of wood, but when you smack them together it sounds like a whip.”

After that, you’ll hear popular sections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” from “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” to “The Waltz of the Flowers.”

You’ll also hear talented young instrumentalists, including 13-year-old violinist Yixuan Li of Rockville, Maryland, winner of the ensemble’s Outstanding Young Artist Award for musicians 12 to 18.

Sushansky said the competition was a combination of YouTube submissions and live finals. “The level was extraordinarily high; it was really hard to decide a winner,” he said. Li and the second- and third-prize winners will perform.

In the second half of the show, soprano Nancy Peery Marriott will perform holiday selections, then lead the Carols Sing-Along.

“‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Silent Night,'” Sushansky said. “The words to the carols will in the program, so everybody will be able to follow along. Last year we did it, everybody kind of hummed because [the pandemic] wasn’t really the time to sing. It’s going to be nice to see everybody live participating in the season.”

The concert will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, on Route 50.

“I’m sure there will be Christmas trees; everything will be decked out.”

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Chamber Ensemble's 'Holiday Cheer' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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