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Columbus Makes Art Presents: Ron Jenkins, Creator of CSO’s Holiday Pops

Rolanda Copley Rolanda Copley Columbus Makes Art Presents: Ron Jenkins, Creator of CSO’s Holiday PopsThe Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Pops returns Friday, December 2. Photo courtesy CSO.
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The Columbus Symphony’s Holiday Pops concerts have become an annual tradition in Columbus, kicking off the season each year in grand holiday style. Holiday Pops is the brainchild of Ron Jenkins, chorus master of the Columbus Symphony Chorus, who has conducted all 100 performances since its inception. Jenkins took a moment between hectic holiday rehearsals to provide some behind-the-scenes insight into the how Holiday Pops began and what it takes to keep it fresh and relevant after more than 30 years of performances.

The Holiday Pops. Photo courtesy CSO.

The Holiday Pops. Photo courtesy CSO.

Rolanda: How long have you lived in Columbus? When did you become involved with the Columbus Symphony Chorus?
I have lived in Columbus for 43 years, and became the chorus director in September 1982.

Rolanda: The CSO’s annual Holiday Pops tradition is your creation. What was your inspiration and how long has it been running?
In 1982, the youth and cadet orchestra conductors and I participated in the CSO’s holiday concert held at the Mershon Auditorium on the OSU campus. It was poorly attended, and we all agreed that December was not a good time for youth ensembles as it directly conflicted with their school programs.

However, I felt we needed a downtown holiday concert, and that it should, of course, incorporate the Columbus Symphony Chorus, because the holidays are all about singing! I conducted the CSO’s first Holiday Pops concert in 1983 at the Palace Theatre (it moved to the Ohio Theatre in 1998), and have conducted all 100 performances since.

Rolanda: What are your goals when selecting what will be played each year?
I want to present a balanced program that satisfies the audience’s desire to hear their favorite holiday music, but also to introduce “new” music or arrangements. To that end, we have commissioned more than a dozen new works over the years. I want to give the audience exciting things to hear AND see, and hope that inspires them to return and enjoy other CSO concerts.

Rolanda: What is your favorite part of Holiday Pops?
I have several—conducting the serious classical/sacred music in the first half, watching a child selected from the audience guest conduct “Sleigh Ride” and conducting all three choruses and the orchestra in the finale.

Ron Jenkins, chorus master of the Columbus Symphony Chorus with the Clauses.

Ron Jenkins, chorus master of the Columbus Symphony Chorus with the Clauses.

Rolanda: What is your biggest challenge in producing Holiday Pops?
It’s quite an undertaking to keep the programming fresh each year while still honoring tradition, but I work hard to make it fun for the audience and challenging for the musicians and vocalists.

Rolanda: Why should people come to a performance of Holiday Pops?
Holiday Pops is the one, and perhaps only, Columbus music event where you can hear and see “everything”—classical and holiday music (both popular and traditional) performed by a professional orchestra, adult chorus and children’s choruses, both adult and children ballet dancing, Santa and Mrs. Claus, dramatic lighting and decorations, the opportunity for one audience member (a child) to conduct the orchestra and a caroling sing-along—all in two hours! It’s kind of like “one-stop” concert shopping!

The Columbus Symphony presents Holiday Pops at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.) on Friday, December 2, at 8pm; Saturday, December 3, at 3pm and 8pm; and Sunday, December 4, at 3pm. Tickets are $25-$68 and can be purchased at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. ColumbusSymphony.com.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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