A holiday tradition returns to Manchester on Nov. 24 when Trans-Siberian Orchestra and its massive orchestral rock explode into the Verizon Wireless Arena for two shows. This year features Christmas-themed selections drawn from the band’s catalog and a new five-song EP (Dreams of Fireflies, a free digital download with each ticket purchase), along with songs from non-holiday records, all presented with unrivaled staging, lights and specials effects.
What’s different this year is the show will kick off with The Lost Christmas Eve, the final installment of the band’s Christmas Trilogy, performed from start to finish. Every TSO show is a rich night of storytelling, but mounting an entire rock opera is something else.
“It’s always a little bit new every year, but this is really new,” said music director and keyboard player Derek Wieland by telephone from Omaha during a break from rehearsals. “One of the things about TSO — in a certain way it is creating a new form, and I think this is the next evolution in doing that.”
The Lost Christmas Eve is a tale of hope and redemption about a man trying to find the son he abandoned at birth. But in many respects the biggest character in the story is New York City itself. This thought weighed on Wieland’s mind as he spoke just days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged so much of the area. “We are working at music and making things up,” he said, “but you have this sense of timing. I think people are going to connect to it even more deeply.”
Wieland played on the 2004 CD release of The Lost Christmas Eve and began touring with TSO in 2005. He took over as music director three years ago. The classically trained pianist owns a studio in Manhattan, which managed to stay out of the storm’s path. “It was a random piece of luck, but it’s really tough and bad in a lot of places right now,” he said.
The band’s late December show in Newark, N.J., is in the heart of the storm’s hardest-hit areas. A portion of ticket sales are donated to local charity at every tour stop, but Long Island native Wieland hopes the New Jersey performance will provide additional respite. “The thing about TSO is it’s inspirational, it has a hopeful message and it brings people together,” he said. “You go to a show to enjoy yourself … but that’s a part of it too, and it’s even better.”
Wieland said he feels this inspiration almost every night. “When you are really connecting with the audience, when you look out and see a young kid ... singing along to every word, you appreciate that you are a part of something that so many people connect with when there are so many things that people can enjoy and are passionate about,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”
With more than 25 performers onstage during two simultaneous tours, the band welcomes a wide range of singers and musicians. “That is a really awesome part of TSO,” Wieland said. “We are a lot of musicians and we have people from all different genres, ages and backgrounds. That strength of drawing from all that different talent is what makes what TSO does possible.”
Though each year’s performance contains similar elements, this youthful enthusiasm keeps things vibrant. “A lot of people are able to come up through this and develop, bring a lot to it and get a lot from it,” said Wieland. “That is a very exciting process. One thing that is kind of timeless about TSO is that it’s able to be fresh all the time.”