Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ringing In The Holidays: Alton Symphony Orchestra, Christmas Wonderland

Sometimes it's difficult to say what it is that puts us in a particular place. Occasionally, it's simple timing that has set someone in motion toward that place.

Recently, I found myself set into motion and landing in the trombone section of the Alton Symphony Orchestra. And now there's this ringing in my ears that sounds like Peter I. Tchaikovsky and Leroy Anderson and Mel Torme, with seasonal songs from Christmas and Hannukah. Perhaps that has something to do with the upcoming concert music we're performing --- well, yes, of course it does. We're performing the majority of Symphony #1 in G-minor opus 13 (Tchaikovsky) --- Winter Dreams --- and other selections at an upcoming concert at Alton High School, December 12th at 8:00 p.m. (note the time), in the auditorium, located at 4200 Humbert Road. Wm. Shane Williams will conduct this concert, the second in the 65th Season of the Alton Symphony Orchestra (nee Alton Civic Orchestra --- see the ASO website for detailed history). As I missed the first concert of the season due to commitments with another group, I am unable to say how the acoustics and environment of the auditorium at AHS feels to the on-stage musicians, but I hope that there will be a large number of patrons of the arts come to the performance and let us know how it sounds. We've been putting in many hours of practice to get these arrangements "down pat", and we're hoping the payoff will be a nice performance on this big stage.

For online information about the Alton Symphony Orchestra, see the website
If you'd like to make a phone call, ASO president Jerre Honke will answer your questions at (618) 462-2314.

Tickets for individual concerts are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $5 for children up to 12 years of age. AHS and LCCC students are free with I.D.
Tickets may be purchased at Duke Bakery at 819 Henry in Alton, Halpin Music at 2375 Homer Adams Parkway in Alton, and Dick's Flowers located at 2621 College in Alton, or in Wood River at 232 N. Wood River Avenue. Tickets are available at the door, and if you order on the ASO website through PayPal, your tickets will be at the WILL CALL window at the AHS Auditorium.

Ring in the holidays with music from the Alton Symphony Orchestra.
[But, please...if I miss an entrance on the Tchaikovsky Symph. #1 fourth movement...please, please, please be kind. It's been 13 years since I played in the ASO or any other symphony orchestra.]


The wonder of lights at the holidays is back, big and beautiful in the RiverBend.

Christmas Wonderland returns to Alton's Rock Spring Park (2116 College Avenue) for the 18th year. Again this year, the "Grandpa Gang" has put in thousands of hours stringing up the light display for the tens of thousands of people who will drive (or perhaps make the walk-through on Monday, November 30, 2009) through the hillside attraction. Donations are $7 per car, with vehicles filled with ten or more occupants (vans, small buses) at $1 per person, through the one-and-a-half mile long park road.

The recent news report online at says over three-million lights are used in this year's Christmas Wonderland display, although the Christmas Wonderland website says 2.5-million lights --- eh, what's a half-million lights among friends, eh? Either way, those numbers are impressive --- a volunteer group putting up such a vast display with lights numbering in the millions! Kudos to the Grandpa Gang!

The hours for the display are 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on weekends, and 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on weeknights. For 2009, the last date is December 27th. Directions and other information about this year's Christmas Wonderland display are here. This year, carriage rides are available primarily on the weekends on a first-come/first-served basis, or through reservations you can make online by emailing or by telephone at 618-458-6986. The cost is $20 for the first couple, with an additional $5 per person after that.

A petting zoo is part of the activities available, and the kids can feed the animals for $0.50, with feed available in the Santa Claus House. Photos at the Santa Claus House are $5 each.

For more information on the Christmas Wonderland or other attractions in the RiverBend area, you can contact the Alton Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-258-6645 (or 1-800-ALTON-IL).

If you're an environmental watcher, you'll be happy to note that this year's display is using many more LED lights to enhance the display with brighter lights as well as making it more "green" friendly.

Volunteer organizations will staff the park and display throughout the festive nights.

Light up the night with friends and family --- make it a destination --- Christmas Wonderland in Rock Spring Park.

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