Christmas Puddings, Trees, Santas, Snowmen, Elves, Presents, and more...

We caught up with Andrew Herbert, CBSO Principal Percussion, for a behind-the-scenes look into one of our favourite CBSO Christmas traditions! 🎅🎄⛄🎁

For those that don’t know, what is the tradition that takes place in the second half of Christmas concerts?
The orchestra perform Leroy Anderson's classic festive favourite, Sleigh Ride and are permitted to wear 'head gear'. To the dismay of Simon Halsey, Christmas conductor and Chorus Director, some years ago the Percussion Section took this a little further by wearing complete costumes. This has since caught on a little throughout the rest of the orchestra.

Is there competition between the sections?
Not so far but there has been some good attempts. There's usually a few from each section that have a go but there's only ever been one winner! Having said that its hard to keep ahead of the game!

Andrew Herbert
Principal Percussion

What have you done for previous seasons?
We've represented most of the festive symbols over the years; Christmas Crackers, Christmas Pudding, a Red Robin, Christmas Trees, Santas, Snowmen, Elves, Presents, a Turkey, Pantomime Dames, and Reindeer to name a few! They've all been a hit, but the larger costumes usually get the best reactions.

Do you try and involve the presenter? Who was the best sport from previous concerts?
With varying amounts of persuasion they all get involved. We usually give them a hat and insist they join in on the Sleigh Bell part. Standards vary greatly and we often find they've done a little practice by the time they perform the second concert! Carol Smillie was more than happy to accept the challenge and did a sterling job! Ore Oduba and Sue Perkins were also good. But Alan Titchmarsh is the pro. He's made the whip part his own!

If you had an unlimited budget and space, what would your ideal costumes be?
The Panto Cow has been on the cards for some time! But getting up the steps past all the equipment with two of us in the costume would have its difficulties. The thought of percussion instruments collapsing all around us onto our colleagues in the violin section doesn't sit easy. Playing the instruments also needs some thought, but that's not always the primary goal! Another idea is a complete Nativity Scene, but we're concerned elements of this might get lost in translation and end up offending some of the audience. I'm also not sure anyone would want to see any of us in a nappy!

Team Percussion backstage with Hugh Dennis (2012).
Team Percussion backstage with Hugh Dennis (2012).

What’s the hardest thing to play while dressed up?
The xylophone part usually becomes the most interesting! Regardless of what we're playing we often struggle to see the instrument, music and conductor and have no peripheral vision. This coupled with the lack of space, additional weight, claustrophobia and the tendency to overheat, can be a challenge for us all.

Any hints you can give for your plans this year?
We had something great lined up but we've recently been let down with a supply issue, so its back to the drawing board!

Why should people come to the CBSO Christmas concerts? (Apart from to see you guys!)
It's a great way to kick start the festive season! The concerts do a great job of showcasing the CBSO Chorus and affiliated choirs and there's nothing like singing a Christmas carol with a world class orchestra in the UK's finest hall!

Click below to find out more about the CBSO’s Christmas 2018 concerts: