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Music

Trans-Siberian Orchestra delivers new gifts for fans

| Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra's founder Paul O’Neill
Mark Weiss
Trans-Siberian Orchestra's founder Paul O’Neill

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is throwing a bit of a curveball at its fans with this year's edition of its popular holiday tour.

For the first time since the combination rock group/orchestra began doing its annual Christmas tours, it will not feature one of the albums from its popular Christmas trilogy — “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” (1996), “The Christmas Attic” (1998) and “The Lost Christmas Eve” (2004). Instead, TSO will perform its one Christmas work that never made it to CD — and never has been performed on tour — “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.”

The group performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27 at the Consol Energy Center, Uptown.

“I've always liked it,” TSO founder Paul O'Neill says of the work. “It's a little gem. ... We decided if we were ever going to do ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve' live, it was this year or not at all, so we decided to go for it.”

Last year, “The Christmas Attic” became the last of the Christmas trilogy albums to be featured on the holiday tour. With the 20th anniversary of “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” looming for 2016, this fall became an ideal time to step away from the trilogy.

The “Ghosts of Christmas Eve” project came about in 1999, quickly and quite unexpectedly.

“We got a call from Fox, who had a small, I think, one-hour, mini-movie drop-out on Dec. 2,” O'Neill says. “They asked us if they could film the band for an hour doing ‘Beethoven's Last Night,' which we had just completed. I said, ‘If you give me an hour, I'll give you a mini-movie.' They're like, ‘Do you have a script?' and I'm like, ‘I'll write it tonight.'

“I just quickly scripted together this little thing, where a 15-year-old ends up breaking into this old Vaudeville theater. She's a runaway. There, she's discovered by the caretaker, who uses the ghosts and the spirits from the theater to turn her life around. Thank God, Fox liked it.

“It was only supposed to run once and never again, but it did so well, Fox ran it multiple times,” he says. “Then, it's basically run on various stations ever since. The DVD has gone multi-platinum.”

Since “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” aired, TSO has gone on to become a major success, with “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” a triple-platinum hit, leading the way. Its annual Christmas tour, meanwhile is reliable blockbuster, earning $51 million last year.

O'Neill's studio work, though, has shifted to long-planned, non-holiday projects.

The second of the non-holiday rock operas, “The Night Castle,” arrived — after several delays — in 2009.

O'Neill says perhaps a half dozen songs from the group's latest project, “Letters From the Labyrinth,” will find their way into the set list this year. (The group has often included some non-holiday material in its catalog-spanning second set of the show.)

The show will again deliver what is arguably the biggest visual spectacle of any concert, featuring all manner of lights, lasers and pyrotechnics to go with the music.

“The bottom line is, it's all about the audience, to take everybody in that arena on a journey of their imagination where they're not in that arena,” he says. “They escaped and they feel emotions they never felt before. They leave that building recharged.”

Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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