Holiday at Peace a Christmas Extravaganza

Greenville News Full Article from Greenville News Online

By Paul Hyde: December 9, 2015

The Greenville Symphony’s Holiday at Peace program is a Christmas extravaganza.

There’s music. There’s dance. There’s one of Broadway’s hottest singing duos.

And there’s Edvard Tchivzhel, the orchestra’s longtime conductor who’s enjoying his 23rd year leading the yuletide revels.

“It’ll be a spectacular show for sure,” Tchivzhel said.

This year’s three Holiday at Peace concerts take place Dec. 18-20 at the Peace Center.

“For me, it’s a great pleasure and opportunity to celebrate the Christmas spirit,” Tchivzhel said.

The program will spotlight Broadway singers Gary Mauer and Elizabeth Southard. The husband-and-wife duo are probably best known for singing opposite each other as the Phantom and Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

They’ll offer several solos and duets, backed by the orchestra.

“It’s a nice mix of contemporary songs and old standards,” Mauer said, speaking recently by phone from his home in New Jersey.

In addition, International Ballet dancers will again grace the Peace Center stage.

As always, there’ll be a concluding singalong, and Santa and Mrs. Claus have pledged to put in an appearance as well.

“ Diversity has always been very important for the program,” Tchivzhel said. “Variety makes these concerts exciting.”

Tchivzhel collaborated with Mauer and Southard on their musical selections.

A perennial favorite for Southard is “O Holy Night.” She’ll also offer her take on the comic number, “The Twelve Days After Christmas.”

Mauer and Southard will join voices on such classics as “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “We Need a Little Christmas” and “Let It Snow.”

On the contemporary side of things, the two will offer “The Prayer,” a soaring ballad perhaps most associated with Andrea Bocelli.

“It’s a beautiful song we enjoy doing together,” Mauer said.

Mauer, for his part, is bringing a new arrangement of “Mary, Did You Know.”

“It was custom-made for my voice so it should be a lot of fun,” Mauer said.

Mauer will sing classic yuletide tunes as well, including “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

When not performing on Broadway or in national tours, Mauer and Southard are frequent pops singers with symphony orchestras.

“It’s wonderful getting to perform with different symphonies,” Mauer said. “It’s always spontaneous, new and refreshing each time.”

Tchivzhel, for his part, is not only conducting this year’s Holiday at Peace performances but also “The Nutcracker” for International Ballet.

“It’s a wonderful score and it has become a very important part of Christmas as well,” Tchivzhel said of Tchaikovsky’s music. “It perfectly represents the spirit of Christmas.”

The Greenville Symphony’s Holiday at Peace concerts are presented by United Community Bank.