The Susanville Symphony Society at a previous Christmas concert. Photo by Doc Bateson

Symphony celebrates the season

There’s almost nothing in town — nay the entire region— that can lift one into the spirit of the season quite like the Susanville Symphony Society’s Christmas in Susanville concert that performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Assembly of God church.

The festivities included, of course, a performance by the local symphony orchestra plus appearances by the Susanville Choral Society a couple of solo performances, an original arrangement of “We Three Kings” by artistic director and conductor Ben Wade and even a reading of an historic Christmas poem.

Prior to the concert, Wade said this show contained the most challenging music and arrangements the symphony has ever attempted.

The concert, split into two 50-minute acts separated by a short intermission, began with the audience joining master of ceremonies Mike Smith in singing “Happy Birthday” to Dick Bendix (“celebrating his 50th birthday for the 39th time,” Smith joked) and Johnny Lentz in the key of D with a very large dose of wonderful harmony.

The show opened with “Christmas on Broadway,” arranged by John Higgins, a seven-minute piece for orchestra and choir that originally included “God Bless Us Everyone;” “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas;” “March of the Toys;” “My Favorite Things” “Pine Cones and Holly Berries;” “Toyland” and “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Ah, but the joyful sound of singers, strings and horns didn’t stop there as the symphony and the choral society performed music from “Home Alone” (“Somewhere in My Memory,” “Star of Bethlehem” and “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” by John Williams.

Soloist Deb Sokol shined in the standard, “The Christmas Song” by Mel Torme and Robert Wells, a number perhaps best known by its opening line, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”

“Russian Christmas Music” by Alfred Reed closed out the first part of the concert.

After the intermission, the symphony performed “A Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson.

Then came “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Bill Holcombe, narrated by Mike Smith. The famous poem, written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823 (although some believe the poem was written by Henry Livingston, Jr.) popularized many of the images we commonly associate with Christmas Eve. Smith’s reading of the poem was nothing short of marvelous.

Soloist Dan Merritt performed a wonderful “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” before the evening ended with Wade’s arrangement of “We Three Kings” for orchestra and choir.


Violin — Carol Fontana, Ruth Lenz, Carol Laube, Olga Archdekin, Sue Bateson, Amy Holmen, Dan Yu, Kaitlyn Nakanishi, Rosalie Houser, Vanessa Porter, Sandy Duval, Aren Long and Madeline Lenz.

Viola – Kati Dayner and Kelly Victoria Carter.

Cello — Johnny Lenz, Peter Lenz, Tiffany Russell and Cecilia Lenz.

String bass — Greg Dood.

Flute — Sheri Haegan, Chandra Jabbs and Debbie Abbott.

Oboe — Eric Fassbender and Cissy Adams.

Bassoon – Benjamin Benson.

Clarinet – Eric Toews, Jane Low and Elaine Mendonca.

Bass clarinet — Susan Merritt.

French horn – Ray White, Lori Braatz, Ray Craig and Ann Craig.

Trumpet – Paul Lenz, John Fagundes and Craig Harris.

Trombone — Bill Bunker, Tim Pass and Kyle Smith.

Bass trombone — Quentin Hunt.

Tuba — Matt Mullin

Timpani — Dick Bendix.

Percussion — Dennis Roberts, Maryel Roberts, Adam Skillen, Jared Ramsey and Isaiah Lopez.

Piano — Fitzhugh Rollins.

Susanville Choral Society

Soprano — Maryel Roberts, Carol Byers, Charlene Gifford, Stephanie Gifford, Danette Gentry, Grace Gentry, Deborah Abbott, Laurie Pass, Linda Braun, Meg Villanueva and Blandy Miranda.

Tenor — John Taylor, John Leicester Alli Burt, Chuck Swetland and David Villanueva.

Alto — Alexandra Spenser, Ann Craig, Betti Bianchini, Shirley Bowden, Carolyn Eshe, Doria Dalu, Jackie Woodson, Jo Forsyth, Karen Clancy, Kathy Shelden, Katy Olsen, Lisa Bernard, Petra Berankova and Mary Beth Laraway Conlee.

Bass — Kelly Gentry, Doug Peters, Dan Merritt, Barney McKee, Mike Baxter and Phil Fetterman.