Oct. 22, 2011
-- The "Winter Solstice" concerts are quickly becoming an Omaha staple in Holiday entertainment, and this year's "Winter Solstice IV: A Concert At The Joslyn" is no exception.
The "Winter Solstice" concerts began in 2008, at the Strauss Center For The Performing Arts on the UNO campus. They've been held there for the last three years, but this year they're being moved to Omaha's historic Joslyn Art Museum. The concert is to be performed at Witherspoon Hall.
Donovan Johnson, an internationally travelled, full time pianist who resides in Omaha, is the founder and the host for this concert. "The original vision for this production was to provide a refreshing alternative to much of the same (entertainment)
that we see every year" Johnson states. "While Omaha is full of talent, often we resort to outside productions to provide us with the entertainment that we're looking for during the holiday season. With "Winter Solstice" I wanted to fill the stage with Omaha's best local talent and create a show that would be refreshingly different in style and feel, as well as memorable to our patrons. For starters, the feel of the show is very contemporary, modern. Refreshing. It's music that at times will exite you and at times restore you. And although some of the songs that are performed are familiar holiday favorites, many of the pieces are those heard much less often. Take "Bring A Torch Jeanette, Isabella" for instance. "Lo How A Rose 'Er Blooming" is another. These are great pieces of art that deserve to be arranged beautifully and presented to an appreciative audience."
Donovan says that his inspiration for the show comes, in large part, from many of the programs that he's seen over the years on public television. "Public television plays a huge role in my vision for this show. I've seen things on public television that I wouldn't otherwise be exposed to, and I've been watching it since I was a kid. The "Celtic Woman" and "Yanni" concerts that they've aired have even influenced my writing style. "Austin City Limits" gave me some real insight into musical stage performances, and how they differ stylistically."
The show consists of Johnson on the piano, but he's just one person in the "cast" of musicians for the production. "This year I have the First Unitarian Choir opening the first act with several songs, and Omaha legend Steve Raybine (vibraphone, piano) opening the second act. In addition we have Doc James and Damorah Alexander of "The Doc James Band Featuring Honey" performing as special guests, along with Sharon North Jones, opera soprano and founder of the "SNJ Studio Of Music" in Omaha. The band that I've hired consists of a full ensemble, including Native American flute, keyboards, guitar, cello, drums, bass and percussion along with a full light show. We're all very excited about the performance this year and eager to get started."
Having written and recorded four albums to date (including "Winter Solstice: Celebrate The Season!"), Donovan has arranged many of the pieces for the concert himself. His playing style has been described as similar to George Winston and David Lanz, with a "pop" edge in the style of Joe Jackson and Bruce Hornsby. "I can't say enough about this show and it's unique offering to Omaha. It's a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, but when it's over it's something so special to all who were a part of it. I want everyone to take a piece of this experience home with them to remember."
The concert has it's own website! Check it out at: www.wintersolsticeconcert.com
-This years production will be held on Sunday, December 4th at 3pm at Joslyn Museum's Witherspoon Hall. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for students/military and $12 for children 12 and under. Recieve $1 off the ticket price for every non-perishable food item donation brought to the door (limit 2 per person). All donatons will be given in support of Catholic Charities. Discounts available to parties of 8 or more. Coupons available at www.wintersolsticeconcert.com and www.donovanjohnson.net. Coupons may be used with donated food items.