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>> FIND THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS AT BOTH FAIRFAX AND MANASSAS CAMPUSES
Preview of holiday performances at George Mason University

 Fiddler Natalie MacMaster will capture the holiday spirit of her Nova Scotia roots at Hylton Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Friday.
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Date published: 12/6/2012

BY JESSE SCOTT

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

World-class musicians will be decking the halls of George Mason University this month.

GMU's Center for the Arts in Fairfax and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas will play host to thousands of fans and a handful of diverse, renowned artists over the course of December.

The Hylton Performing Arts Center will feature Canadian-Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster tomorrow and the American Festival Pops Orchestra on Dec. 21.

The Center for the Arts will host "A Rockapella Christmas" tomorrow, the Vienna Boys Choir on Dec. 14, string ensemble The Romeros with Concerto Malaga on Dec. 15, Canadian-Celtic band Leahy on Dec. 16 and the American Festival Pops Orchestra on Dec. 22.

"If you love holiday music, nothing beats live holiday music," said Jeff Thatcher, vocal percussionist of Rockapella, in a phone interview from Syracuse. "There is no better reason to go to a holiday concert than to hear your favorite songs fresh and in person."

Rockapella has been a regular on the holiday circuit for the last eight years. This year's show at GMU promises to boast the quintet's pristine blend of timeless a capella and a few seasonal surprises.

"We now have three holiday albums and like to refresh our show each year with new songs," said Thatcher, a nearly 20-year veteran of the group. "This year we have a little 'Jingle Bell Rock,' a very boisterous version of 'Carol of the Bells' and even a Kwanzaa and Hanukkah song thrown in there for fun."

On the other end of the musical spectrum (and continent), Nova Scotia native and Grammy-nominated fiddler Natalie MacMaster will make the trip from Canada to Manassas to share a "Christmas in Cape Breton." The show, which is a holiday-themed tribute to her hometown, will feature a mix of classic and modern Celtic tunes, fast-paced step-dancing and heaps of Canadian flair.

"If people have seen me play before, they will have seen a very lively show, a lot of fiddling and a very joyful experience," said MacMaster in a phone interview from Nova Scotia. "Fifty percent of my show is devoted to Christmas. I am very tasteful and choosy about which songs I play, because the melodies have to mesh with the fiddle. I want those Christmas moments to be great."

For MacMaster and her family, the Christmas season is all about celebrating her faith and a genuine sense of unity.

"The more I think about it, the more I get it," said MacMaster. "It really is about the birth of Jesus Christ. It's about good food, the cake, the decorations, the music and it is all for a reason from my eyes. It creates an anticipation, magic, wonder, and it's a neat little package that fits so wonderfully together."

If Rockapella or MacMaster's unique tunes don't fully roast your holly, just remember that GMU is offering so much more this holiday season. If you're looking for a place that will truly get your holiday bells jingling, GMU may very well be the place.

Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native. Email him at
Email: jesserobertscott@gmail.com.


What: Holiday concerts at George Mason University

Where: Center for the Arts (4400 University Drive, Fairfax) and Hylton Performing Arts Center (10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas)

When: Select dates through Dec. 22

Cost: Varied

Info: Center for the Arts: cfa.gmu.edu; Hylton Performing Arts Center: hylton center.org. Charge by phone: 888/945-2468