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Forte: Melancholy holiday brightened by London memories

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Jeffrey Snedeker, Yakima Symphony Orchestra principal horn.

As I began to write this column in mid-December, I was watching yet another Christmas special on television. I admit that I run hot and cold on these programs; sometimes they are a little sappy and overdone, other times they are really touching and meaningful. Still, the prevailing feeling as I was sitting and watching was: I miss our annual Holiday Pops Spectacular!

To hear the familiar music and the joyful singing led by the Yakima Symphony Chorus, and to see the holiday garb worn by audience members and performers alike, are things I look forward to; our performance in early December is a loud and welcome signal of the start of the holiday season. Our performances, along with other events like the Christmas Lighted Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony, a ride on Santa’s Trolley and the Luminaria Walk at the Arboretum, are among several holiday traditions in the Yakima Valley that other cities share in their own ways.

The traditions we grow up with are important to us, even if they wind up evolving a bit through the years. And, since we are experiencing a very different time in 2020, one cannot help but remember these traditions more fondly, even more fiercely, as we make our way through the COVID-19 minefield.

This year, I have been reliving the good fortune of a 2019 family visit to London at Christmastime, and the extensive musical buffet we experienced. Like most big cities, London has an overwhelming holiday season, with dozens of holiday events, many of them concerts. In the nine days we were there, we averaged at least one concert per day, and there were several days we attended more than one. Because of the UK’s deep traditions in choral singing, we were able to hear carol concerts at several churches, as well as brass and orchestra performances featuring music of the season.

We even got a performance fix of our own at a choral sing-along, “Come and Sing: Christmas Choruses” (at St. Martin-in-the-Fields!), featuring a variety of seasonal works, including a few from Handel’s “Messiah.” (We also lucked out and got really cheap tickets for “Hamilton” at the Victoria Palace Theatre.) This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and it was wonderful to experience so much live music. At the time, we had no idea what lay ahead in 2020, and how fortunate we were in being able to take that trip and see all those performances.

I look forward to renewing our own traditions at next year’s Holiday Pops Spectacular. If I see you there, I will be happy and grateful — it will mean we have found our way out of our current challenges, which will make the holidays in 2021 even more meaningful. I wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

• Jeffrey Snedeker is principal horn for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. He and other symphony members write this weekly column for SCENE. Learn more at

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