By JOSEPH B. NADEAU
WOONSOCKET – The holidays are approaching and to start them off in grand fashion the St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center is once again hosting the Ocean State Pops Orchestra for a holiday concert on Sunday, Nov. 28.
The music starts at 3 p.m. inside the soaring and fresco-painted former church and will include many classic holiday pops works led by the orchestra’s conductor, Dr. Brian Cardany.
St. Ann Executive Director Dominique Doiron said the concerts are a longtime tradition at St. Ann where the building, its paintings by noted Italian religious artist Guido Nincheri and holiday decorations combine to make the concert a memorable experience.
“The building is well suited to this type of ensemble,” Doiron said of the orchestra performance.
The way the sound reflects off the back church and its upper spaces and the interior decoration only enhance what visitors come to hear, he noted.
“If that doesn’t help set the holiday mood, nothing will,” Doiron said.
The Ocean State Pops Orchestra, based in Rhode Island, is a 60-piece touring group of talented musicians performing six or more concerts annually throughout Southern New England, according to the group.
The nonprofit organization was established to “enhance the cultural vitality and quality of life of the region through high-quality performances of great music and educational programming,” Ocean State notes.
The Orchestra’s repertoire of music includes a broad variety of light classical pieces, as well as movie and show compositions, patriotic music and marches, Big Band, and other inspirational pops-style selections
Anthony R. De Luca, the orchestra’s executive director, said Ocean State is ready to return to St. Ann to start another holiday season.
“We haven’t been able to hold a concert there since 2019 so it will be exciting to be back and something that we are looking forward to,” De Luca said.
Although performing with choral groups in the past, De Luca said this year’s performance will feature just 55-members of the orchestra due to the continuing precautions against COVID-19.
But like Doiron, De Luca said St. Ann is a unique setting for an orchestra to perform.
“We have been performing there many years,” De Luca said while explaining how the orchestra knows how to make the best of St. Ann’s unique sound enhancing characteristics.
“Even a small group sounds massive there because you have the reflection of sound off the walls and the reverberation,” De Luca said.
The addition of the frescoes and the holiday decorations only enhance the performance by the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion musicians of orchestra, according to De Luca.
St. Ann’s regular patrons know just how good a match the Ocean State Orchestra is for the venue and have already been buying the show’s tickets in advance.
“I think we are close to a sell out so that’s great,” De Luca said.
“I know St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center has been looking forward to holding a large scale event,” De Luca said while pointing out St. Ann is also ready to host the concert.
Constructed in the French Renaissance style, the former Catholic church has been dubbed ‘The Sistine Chapel of America’ by Yankee Magazine, according to Dorion.
It ceilings and walls painted by Nincheri in the 1940s hold the large collection of frescoes in North America.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and are available online at oceanstatepops.org or stannartsandculturalcenter.org.
In accordance with the policies of venues across Rhode Island, COVID protocols including showing proof of vaccination, negative COVID test and a mask requirement will be in place. Visit either of the listed websites for detailed information.
Follow Joseph Nadeau on Twitter @JNad75