Guest conductor Kraemer has been planning Westmoreland Symphony's 'Holidays' for months

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 8:45 p.m.

Matthew Kraemer says he is in the middle of a season that begins “sometime in August, sitting on a beach with a drink in my hands.”

It is then that he begins to work his way through scores and availability of arrangements that will lead to his work directing Christmas concerts.

He will be doing such work Saturday when he conducts the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra in its annual holiday show at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

Besides the visit from Kraemer, the associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in New York, the concert will include performances by soprano Kate Amatuzzo of Erie and the All-Star Choir of Westmoreland County, made up of 60 students from area high schools.

The choir will be directed by Marc Tourre, retired vocal instructor from Greater Latrobe High School.

The Greensburg show is one of “15 to 20” Christmas concerts Kraemer does in his work with the Buffalo orchestra, the Butler County Symphony Orchestra and the Erie Chamber Orchestra.

There are other jobs, too, such as this one and an earlier appearance in Hamilton, Ontario.

“It can be overwhelming,” he says of the holiday shows. “But it's like I am reaching for a tried-and-true friend every year when I get my 20-pound ‘Nutcracker' score.”

Kraemer is a busy conductor. Besides his Christmas concert schedule, his work in Buffalo is made up of 12 Pops concerts and one classical series a year, educational outreach and family concerts and a five-week summer series.

His work in Erie makes him something of a geographical colleague of Daniel Meyer, artistic director of the Westmoreland Symphony, who also leads the ensemble there.

The most difficult part of the holiday concerts, Kraemer says, is finding and blending new music with holiday favorites. The new pieces this year will be “Merry Christmas” and “Somewhere in My Memory” from John Williams' “Home Alone” soundtracks.

The show will include the big-band-flavored “Christmas Overture” by Jeff Tyzik, a busy composer and conductor.

“We're in a great time for new music right now,” Kraemer says. “There are a lot of great composers out there doing things.”

But, never fear: The concert will include favorites such as selections from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “The Nutcracker” and the cantering favorites of Sergei Prokifiev's “Trioika” and Leroy Anderson's “Sleigh Ride.”

Some of those favorites become quite close associates, he says. Leroy Anderson's ever-popular “A Christmas Festival” is one of those arrangements that become a life-saver, he says,

“You're sitting there realizing rentals of arrangements cost a bit, and there it is, staring you in the face,” he says. “It becomes a work you know so well you end up conducting it without a score.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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