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After missing a year due to the pandemic, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra brought back its popular holiday concert.

A volunteer working a table full of Holl’s Chocolates outside the Maier Foundation Performance Hall at the Clay Center motioned me over to buy some chocolate and donate to the symphony, but I steered clear.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to watch what I eat (somewhat) as I got ready for another turn with the Charleston Ballet and West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

I needed to be able to fit into the form-fitting jacket and frilly shirt I’d been assigned, and I also needed to feel comfortable enough to go shirtless and stand in front of an audience of hundreds.

So, I shook my head, avoided the chocolate (though I had a beer), and eventually navigated my way into the theater for the symphony’s “Sounds of the Season.”

The West Virginia Symphony’s holiday show has always been a reliably good way to welcome in the season and is kind of a gateway for people who are interested in or like a little symphonic music but aren’t really familiar with it.

Throughout the show the orchestra plays a lot of traditional Christmas songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night,” but doesn’t do a deep dive into Classical works.

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I’ve seen probably half a dozen of these performances, most of them when Grant Cooper conducted, and they’ve never failed to deliver a great mix of seasonal warmth and holiday cheer.

This show was no different in theme, though this year, everybody was wearing a mask and the concert was conducted by Parkersburg native Luke Frazier, who brought a group of friends in to sing and dance.

Tap dancer Luke Hawkins was something I’m not sure any of us had expected at a symphony show, but he was great and was one of the delights of the evening.

Frazier’s singers, Deepa Johnny, Nova Payton and Kevin Rose, filling in for Rayshun LeMarr, were also very good.

Frazier, the symphony’s first Andrew and Amy Vaughan Student Symphonic Fellowship recipient, was a thoughtful and humble host, giving thanks for the opportunity to lead the West Virginia Symphony and even granting that same chance to Jacob Blank, a West Virginia University student Frazier is mentoring.

It was a good night for music and my first show at the Clay Center since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or lynch Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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