DANVILLE — It will be as if Julius W. Hegeler II is seated in the front row at the upcoming Danville Symphony Orchestra Christmas concert.

DSO has dedicated the concert to Hegeler, long-time patron and community philanthropist, who died July 5.

“This concert is not just a tribute to Julius, but a gift to the community,” said Jeanne Dunn, a member of the DSO Community Choir. “This is beautiful music. It’s going to get the entire community into the spirit.”

“Stars for Julius” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Dick Van Dyke Theater at Danville High School.

Conductor Jeremy Swerling said, “It’ll be emotionally difficult not seeing Julius sitting there in the front row, as he did for so many years.

“Since Julius’ first experience with ‘The Nutcracker,’ the Christmas concert has always held a special place in Julius’ heart.”

Marty Lindvahl, who will direct the Community Choir, noted that Hegeler loved Danville and he would be thrilled to see about 100 voices coming together to welcome the season.

“It’s a way to celebrate him in a grand way,” she said.

“It’s just going to be a beautiful concert. People don’t want to miss this one,” she added. “It will warm everyone’s heart and will put you in the Christmas mood.”

The concert will provide a joyous collection of traditional and classic holiday songs. Danville High School’s Delegation show choir, directed by Jeff Thomas, will join the performance for a few numbers.

A unique addition this year is a guest conductor. Voting is under way now until midnight Thursday on the DSO website to select a guest conductor, who will lead the orchestra in the holiday favorite, “Sleigh Ride.”

Swerling said he thinks Julius probably would have enjoyed a turn at conducting.

“Sometimes during concerts, from the corner of my eye I would spot Julius waving his hand to the beat as if he had an invisible baton,” Swerling said.

DSO Executive Director Cindy Nacco said people can vote for one of the five who have agreed to participate in the conductor contest or they may enter themselves — which an enterprising young student, Nevaeh Cooke, did.

Other contestants, as of Friday, are: Dr. Randy Ashton, Stephen Nacco, Wes Bieritz and Alicia Geddis.

Each vote costs $1, and there is no limit on the number of votes a person can buy.

Cindy Nacco said, “It’s a way to have fun while raising funds to help support the quality performances that the DSO has brought to our community for more than 50 years.”

The concert will feature selections by the orchestra; songs by the Community Choir, accompanied by the orchestra; numbers by the DHS Delegation; and special guests, middle school students Allie and Aidan Cox, who will be featured in a cute performance of “Santa Dear”; and Todd Kester on a rock guitar solo.

The choir, under Lindvahl’s direction, will sing favorites such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “God Bless Us Everyone,” “Some Children See Him,” “Mary, Did You Know,” and an arrangement of carols, including “Oh, Holy Night.”

The audience will be invited to sing along with some of the favorites from childhood.

The Delegation show choir will perform “Text Me Merry Christmas,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” and “All I Want For Christmas,” and then will combine with the DSO Choir for the concert’s grand finale of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus from “The Messiah.”

Swerling said symphony lovers will be pleased to know that the orchestra will be featured by itself, including performances of “Christmas A La Valse,” “A Christmas Scherzo,” and his own personal favorite, “A Mad Russian Christmas” as performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

“This modern arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Trepak’ includes the most amazing rock guitar solo that will be performed by Danville’s own Todd Kester and it is sure to rock your Christmas,” he said.

Jeanne Dunn, who has done choral singing most of her life, was drawn to this concert because of its presentation of traditional Christmas music. In addition, she’s always wanted to work with Lindvahl.

“I’m thrilled to be having that experience,” she said. “I’m really excited for our first rehearsal with DSO.”

Also, she said, the voices are incredible, as well as rehearsal pianist Jill Smith.

To the audience, she said, “If they want to launch themselves into the Christmas season, this concert of Christmas music won’t fail them.”

Lindvahl said the Community Choir has done other collaborations with the symphony, but this might be the largest group.

As for DSO, she said, “Having a symphony in the community is a treasure.”

The DSO is a 501 c 3 organization with a 52-year tradition of bringing orchestral performances to the East Central Illinois region. For more information or for a season subscription, call Nacco at 443-5300 or visit the DSO website.

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