The Wichita Symphony is getting ready to give its annual holiday gift to the city.
Accompanied by the orchestra, guest vocalist Katie Banks and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus will sing Christmas favorites on Tuesday.
“It’s a fun concert,” said Jay Decker, the holiday concert’s conductor for 35 years.
Banks will sing an assortment of holiday classics. She has performed in both the national tour and the Broadway hit “Phantom of the Opera,” as well as many shows for Music Theatre of Wichita. Banks grew up in El Dorado and remembers attending the symphony’s Christmas concerts as a child.
“It’s always been a staple for my family, so it’s exciting to be a part of it,” Banks said.
Banks is especially happy to be singing “Silent Night” in the original German. Each Christmas, Banks’ grandmother would sing “Stille Nacht” to her. Banks’ great-grandfather had come to the U.S. from Switzerland. He passed that song in its original form to his daughter Marie.
When Banks sings this holiday classic on stage Tuesday evening, she plans to be looking out into her 92-year-old grandmother Marie’s eyes and invoking memories of Christmas past.
“It’s special to be able to sing that for her,” Banks said. Banks’ daughter, Isabelle, who is ready to carry on the family tradition, plans to attend, as well.
Although the symphony performs an annual holiday concert, the songs and performers change. Decker enjoys the challenge of keeping the concert fresh each year.
“We have traditional holiday classics with new arrangements,” said Decker, a cellist and retired director of strings at Wichita State University. “It’s a fun concert to do. It has a good feel to it.”
As in past years, the audience is invited to participate in a sing-a-long. Deborah Muhwezi will serve as the master of ceremonies. Cecil Riney is the chorus director.
“It’s one of the most enjoyable concerts we get to do,” Decker said. “It’s a nice gift that the symphony can give to the city.”