Our BSO Christmas Crackers concert on 19 December is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and lift the spirits. Bursting with all your seasonal favourites including such classics as All I Want For Christmas is You, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and White Christmas (to name but a few) this concert is the perfect way to welcome in the festive season.

Regular guest conductor, Pete Harrison, will be leading the concert. We asked Pete a few questions as he prepares for the festivities…

What is your musical background? When did you first start working with the BSO?

I’m originally a Bassoon player, though I also play Baritone Saxophone and Bass Clarinet. I studied at the Royal College of Music and one of my first jobs after that was sitting in the pits at the West End; that was where my first real conducting opportunities came up. One of the first things I conducted was Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre. This led on to all sorts of other opportunities including working within studios, with various orchestras and arranging.

If I remember rightly, I think my first concert with the BSO was a Rodgers & Hammerstein concert called One Enchanted Evening in the early 2000s. It came about because I ran a production company and co-produced and bought the rights to some concert versions of musicals including Chess and  Les Miserables .I then went on to do a lot of Bond, Abba, Queen, Disco, 80s and Pink Floyd shows with the BSO over the years and I’ve never looked back…

One of your specialisms is film music…how long have you been conducting film music for?

I’ve always enjoyed film music and actually the first film music I conducted was with the BSO; I believe it was Galactic Classics at Meyrick Park. I think it was this concert which led to other orchestras asking me to do similar things. What I love about film music is that you can paint the scene of what is going on in the film and people are transported to that scene through the music. I don’t think you could do that without music as it is such an evocative part of a film. Often you can start playing and people are in tears straight away; the music brings up such emotion!

Another thing I love about film music is the huge breadth of styles that it encompasses. Because of that the audience is usually is made up of lots of families and younger people. Interestingly, now, video game music is becoming a big thing and I think video games and films are going to become even more intertwined at the years go on. Often during pre-concert talks I introduce video game music and older members of the audience groan, but I say to them give it a chance and we’ll chat afterwards about it…and actually they tend to enjoy it! Video game music is really fantastic and of course it is also a huge source of work for composers these days.

Pete Harrison (c) Andy Holdsworth

What does Christmas mean to you? And how will this year’s celebration be different?

Christmas is usually a very busy time for me, filled with concerts all over the country. I’ve been known to do concerts back to back in Portsmouth and Southampton, then fly to Glasgow for a concert and then back to Poole for another concert! Sadly, sometimes I do have to turn down work as it is such a hectic season. I make sure to always prioritise the BSO though as I have been doing it for such a long time! Though I love the busyness of the season I also love that feeling of being able to switch off over the days around Christmas and enjoy some precious family time.

This year will be different in that it won’t be so busy due to the pandemic.  However, I am delighted and grateful that I am still able to work with the BSO this year for the BSO Christmas Crackers concert. At the moment I am busy prepping for that along with a few other things.  I think because of the events of this year the concert will be so much more meaningful. One of my favourite moments of the Christmas concert is that we often finish with the Peanut Vendor arranged by Ron Goodwin.  Ron was a conductor and presenter for the BSO Christmas concert for 32 years and it was his tradition to end with that piece, in contrast to the gentle tunes you would normally end with. He was so well loved by audiences and it has become a firm family favourite and always receives a cheer when we announce it, so rest assured that will still be included this year!

What is your favourite Christmas song?

I really love Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade and I Wish it Could be Christmas Ev’ryday by Wizzard because they are just so popular with audiences and get people up and singing and dancing. Often this even leads to a conga in the hall (of course we won’t be able to do that this year!).  It will have to be some gentle foot tapping or maybe a conga if you’re watching from home!

Pete conducts BSO Christmas Crackers at Lighthouse, Poole on 19 Dec at 3pm and 7.30pm. We also celebrate the festive season with  A Baroque Christmas on 16 Dec, featuring the internationally renowned violinist Alina Ibragimova  and exceptional soprano Anna Devin.

Due to popular demand, in addition to the 7.30pm livestreamed events, we will present socially-distanced matinee performances (3pm) for both our festive programmes.