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Christmas will come with Celtic flair at Albany Symphony Orchestra performances

Mithril meshes old world Celtic style with classical, American folk and Middle Eastern influences

The members of Mithril, clockwise from back, are Sam Gaston, Tom Morley, Andra Bohnet and Ben Harper. Mithril will perform with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in its holiday concerts at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Darton State College Theatre. (Special Photo)

The members of Mithril, clockwise from back, are Sam Gaston, Tom Morley, Andra Bohnet and Ben Harper. Mithril will perform with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in its holiday concerts at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Darton State College Theatre. (Special Photo)

ALBANY — Christmas is said to be the most wonderful time of the year. This weekend, however, may be the busiest Christmas-related activity weekend of the year in metro Albany.

Christmas parades are set for Saturday morning in Leesburg and Saturday evening in Albany. Saturday also features the morning Jingle Bell Jog and the Holly Berry Market. Theatre Albany has its Christmas musical comedy “Nuncrackers” Thursday, Friday and Sunday, while Ballet Theatre South presents “Peter Pan” Friday through Sunday. Sunday evening, the Albany State University Chorale and Chamber Singers present “A Triumphant Christmas” at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church.

The most unique holiday event of the weekend, however, will be “Celtic Holiday Celebration with Mithril,” a pair of performances Saturday at the Darton State College Theatre, part of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season.

In past years, the symphony has presented its popular Peppermint Pops concerts in early December. On Saturday, the symphony’s holiday performance will take an Old World turn when it performs with Mithril, which symphony officials say is one of the most sought after Celtic/world music groups. The performances are at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Mithril’s unique progressive style has its roots in traditional Celtic music, but moves far beyond that, weaving such diverse influences as American folk, classical and Middle Eastern melodies into their full tapestry of sound, symphony officials said. The concert will also include Anderson’s “Christmas Festival,” a Hanukkah overture, more holiday favorites and audience participation. Santa will make a special appearance at both shows.

“I have worked with Mithril and have seen the wonderful energy and musicianship they bring to their performances. I’ve invited them to join us for this special holiday concert,” said Albany Symphony Music Director and Conductor Claire Fox Hillard.

Mithril has been featured on arts and concert series and festivals throughout the Southeast and beyond. As guest artists with the Mobile (Ala.) Symphony, Mithril set an all-time attendance record for a symphony pops series. They have been guest artists with symphonies in Michigan, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

“Like their namesake, Mithril, takes the fantasy of Tolkien and mixes it with Celtic folk and contemporary music in a magic blend of powerful musical talent,” noted Michael McDane Harris, host of Renradio.com

Mithril, which has release six albums in the past decade, continues to push at the boundaries, taking audiences of all ages on an exotic musical journey to Ireland, Scotland and beyond, symphony officials said.

The four musicians who comprise Mithril perform on a wide array of instruments, including Irish flute, whistle, fife, Celtic harp (Andra Bohnet), fiddle, bouzouki (Tom Morley), guitar (Ben Harper) and percussion (Sam Gaston), playing with the precision of their classical training and the enthusiasm and high energy that springs from their love of music.

Attendees are requested to bring a canned good donation to be distributed to needy families by the Second Harvest of South Georgia food bank. Admission is $25 to $35, adults; $22, seniors 65 and older, and $10, students with ID. Tickets are available by calling the Symphony office at (229) 430-8933, visiting online at albanysymphony.org or at the box office one hour before the concerts.

Hillard and the group will present Pre­Concert notes for informative comments and insights into the performance at 6:30 p.m. from the stage. Following the evening concert, the Conductor’s Circle reception will be held across from the theater. Members and others who pay at the door ($15) can enjoy refreshments and greet Hillard and Mithril members.

In its 50th consecutive season, the ASO is a fully professional per service orchestra serving Southwest Georgia with classical, pops, educational and special concerts. Recognized for its innovative audience developmental efforts and diverse programming, the orchestra has received the League of American Orchestras and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards on multiple occasions.

A list of times and events this weekend can be found on today’s Coming Up calendar on Page 6C.