Sarah Brightman brings the essence of the holiday season alive on stage

SarahBrightman-AChristmasSymphony-Credit-_Oliver-Sommers00062RX
Sarah Brightman
Oliver Sommers

When the holiday season rolled around last year, 2020 felt very different for obvious reasons. The pandemic halted most traditions and festivities that typically pepper each day towards the end of the year with joy. However, Sarah Brightman took the lull as an opportunity to do what she does best: Sing. The world-renowned Soprano took her love of the season and everything it brings and put it all into a concert for her first-ever live stream, ‘Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony.’ That particular concert (which you can catch on PBS) however was just the start.

Brightman now is hitting the road around the country with her show, ‘A Christmas Symphony’ tour and the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ songstress will be hitting the stage this weekend (Dec. 4th) at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. During a time when everyone is reminiscing and coming together, Brightman is bringing her love of the season with some classic holiday songs, a slew of her old hits, and a lot more to the stage, and it all stemmed from that want for hope last year.

Brightman sat down to discuss more on what fans can expect for her Christmas Tour.

Why do a Christmas tour?

Last year when Britain suddenly started to really lock down before Christmas, I thought I’ve got to do something and try to be useful to myself and to others. I need to see what I can do to keep spirits up. So, I devised and put together a Christmas show for streaming—we managed to find a beautiful church where they allowed us to do it and we got permission with all the COVID [restrictions], and I was able to employ some musicians and lighting crew. I wanted it to be very beautiful, so whoever listened to it or watched it would have a really lovely time, and we had an amazing response to it. I knew when America and England started to open up again that it would be just fabulous to do a bigger show of what I had already streamed and make it a proper live show to go into the theaters. I knew it was the sort of thing that people would want to enjoy at this time. It’s the first time I’ve done a Christmas show, it’s got songs in it for everybody—non-christian as well, and it kind of pretty much covers everything. It’s ticked all the boxes and I think it’s going to be really beautiful.

What are some of the stand-out songs to you from the show?

It’s a complete mixture. There are pieces from ‘Phantom’ for example which are very uplifting. I have some of the more religious pieces, with things like ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Jesu, Joy’s of a Man’s Desiring,’ which is beautiful and we’ve got a big choir [for it.] So, you’ve got all that wonderful Christmas spirit, but then I’ve got some pieces which are sort of at the other side of Christmas—people do have sometimes a difficult time through that. I’ve got a wonderful piece by Vince Gill, it’s a peak mixture in there for everyone really with lots of choir pieces and lots of ‘Nutcracker’ pieces that the orchestra is doing as well. I brought in a fabulous lighting designer for it and the set is very simple and effective. The lighting designer is creating all sorts of moods in the show that reflect our subliminal feelings that we have about Christmas, and there’s a huge amount of tradition in it as well.

What did you miss the most about performing live on stage in front of an audience?

You know it’s been very difficult for all artists because what we’ve realized is that we in a way as musicians… our job is to care for the soul. We’re instruments for people to be taken away from the difficulties in their life or whatever they’re going through. It was very difficult to not sort of give ourselves to the public in that way for all of that time. Yes, you can sit at home and you can practice and learn new repertoire, but it’s not the same as giving out to the audience. At the end of the day, we’re givers and we’re carers to the soul.

You speak very fondly of the holiday season, what do you enjoy most about this time of year?

For me and my family, it’s a really, really important time of year. I get all types of wonderful experiences [from it], even if I’m not having that great of a year. From childhood, the way my family brought us up, we lived in such a small, market town outside of London—It sits very high in altitude, and we would always get snow and it was very romantic around Christmas time. Also, my family is large. I have five siblings, so Christmas is a big thing—lots of presents and sitting around the Christmas table, all those sorts of traditions which we hold very dear to us. Then, of course, it’s about family and friends being together, it’s a wonderful time.

What are some of those traditions that your family has?

On Christmas Eve, and I’m sure this is an American tradition as well, we put up these sorts of stockings. They’re made out of felt and they’re filled with Christmas presents. They can be very simple and filled with fruit and nuts, and then also a couple of little presents in there, but for children, they just love it. We have the old [tradition] of Father Christmas supposedly coming from down the chimney, so we always put out Sherry or some hot milk with cinnamon in it that sits by the fireplace—and we’ve got loads of fireplaces in the country. We usually do a Christmas Eve drink party for everyone, some people might be going to Midnight Mass. Then we have something called Boxing Day. It comes from the tradition of people who had a lot of food, they would box up what was left over from Christmas Day and give it to people who didn’t have that much…So, those were the sort of traditions we had in England.

Back to your tour, what do you hope audiences take away from your show?

I think that there is always something very comforting about Christmas if that’s what you enjoy. The feeling of almost safety…that’s what I feel anyway from it. Safety, beauty, spiritual—you’re reminded of things that are very dear to you be it friends, family, your perspective on life, and also people that you’re lost as well. It’s quite an introspective and personal time for people. I have to be very careful with how I chose things and what messages I wanted to convey in the show through the music and through what I talk about. I think it’s just a sense of calm and there’s some formality and safety in the idea of this beautiful tradition and the Christmas story that so many people enjoy and love.

Catch Sarah Brightman’s ‘A Christmas Symphony Tour’ at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City Dec. 4th. Tickets are available at theoceanac.com

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