Heartland Pops Orchestra plays classic Christmas tunes and nontraditional selections at Academic Hall

Thursday, December 11, 2008
Jerry Ganiel directs a Heartland Pops rehearsal from the piano.
Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer

You've probably heard of the Boston Pops Orchestra, but did you know Southeast Missouri has its own version?

The Heartland Pops Orchestra is a 23-piece ensemble made up of band directors, instructors from Southeast Missouri State University and students from the area. The vocal choir that accompanies it is 25 strong with members from Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

"It's something that I started about seven years ago just through my contacts with different teachers and people that I know," said conductor Jerry Ganiel. "We just put it together."

Ganiel has been the musical director of Immaculate Conception Church in Jackson for seven years. Before that he was in Georgia and Florida where he also started orchestra groups.

"It's a venue we don't have here," he said. The only orchestra is the Southeast Symphony Orchestra, which plays mostly classical music. "I've always been around show business, and I like to do the showy tunes."

AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com
A Heartland Pops rehearsal on November 10, 2008.

The Heartland Pops will play traditional songs like "Oh Holy Night" and "Silent Night," then jump into nontraditional ones like "Jingle Bells" sung to music from "The Nutcracker."

"Every year we try to do 'Jingle Bells' to different music," Ganiel said. Last year the orchestra played 'Jingle Bells' in the style of "Stars and Stripes Forever."

The choir has been practicing together once a week. The orchestra members are sent sheet music to practice on their own. They rehearse once with just instruments and then again with the choir.

This will be the first year that the Heartland Pops has incorporated acts other than the orchestra and choir into the show. They will play, followed by a performance by Penny Gilley of Branson, Mo., followed by the Southern Brothers, a local country/western/gospel group that has performed in Silver Dollar City in Branson and recorded with the Nashville orchestra in Nashville, Tenn.

During the second act of the show, the story of the Nativity will be presented with narration by KFVS12's Mary-Ann Maloney.

"We also have a guest choir that will perform as well," Ganiel said. The group is made up of about 30 students from St. Augustine's School and Kelso C-7.

The Heartland Pops Orchestra will perform at 7:15 p.m. Monday at Academic Hall on the Main Southeast Missouri State University campus.

Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students. Tickets will be available at the door.

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