TSO East and West Rock the Dickens into Audiences Across the US

Top: Trans Siberian Orchestra performs Christmas Eve and Other Stories in Sunrise Fl, on December 13, 2019 at the BB&T Center. Photo Credit: Ivan Romero Bottom: Trans-Siberian Orchestra East performing at The John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA on December 12, 2019. Photo Credit: © Dave Pearson 2019.

Charlottesville, VA; Sunrise, FL – It was the best of times, it was story time, it was the age of wisdom, it was the rock of ages, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of TSO, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Rhythm, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of THE tour… or in this case, the TOURS.

Whether talking Charles Dickens or Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO), the classics always stand the test of time. In this, their 21st Christmas Tour, TSO is once again creating a stir that starts with ‘Great Expectations’ and includes a ‘Christmas Carol’ (or two). From November through the end of December, the TSO team, consisting of an east and west tour, deliver the holiday spirit to two cities nightly. Each city hears the classic Christmas story that commences with an air of despair and concludes with hope for the future. As fate would have it, this year Digital Beat Magazine contributors, Ivan Romero and Dave Pearson, had the opportunity to cover both the east and west tours. Dave, who is familiar with this legendary classic, covered the December 12th performance of the east tour at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA. Ivan, having the opportunity to experience TSO for the first time, covered the west tour performance in Sunrise, FL  at the BB&T Arena in Sunrise, FL on December 13th. 

In 2019, TSO is bringing back a remake of their original tour, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories”. Last performed in 2011, this performance is based on the concept of their first album of the same name, released on 1996. This indeed makes for a classic TSO performance that will live in the minds of all who attended for years to come.

A Tale of Two Orchestras

Book The First – A Classic Christmas Tale

As with any classic there has to be a story… with a twist. Christmas Eve and Other Stories is no different. It is a Christmas story, seen through the eyes of a young man drowning his sorrows on a sad Christmas Eve in an old city bar.

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is worthy of the big screen and would certainly be in competition for best Christmas screen play. The plot centers around a conversation between a wise old man and a young soul struggling with life, hiding behind a bottle in a corner bar. Bring in an angel, sent from God to bring back an example of the spirit of Christmas, and a runaway girl with her saddened family, as they prepare to spend a Christmas not knowing their child is all right; You have the makings of a Hallmark movie. 


The show began with a powerful rendition of “Who I Am” from their most recent album, Letters from the Labyrinth, This song highlighted a forceful choir consisting of TSO vocalists Natalya Rose, Georgia Napolitano, Hayley Dorling, Erika Jerry, Kayla Reeves, Zak Stevens, Dustin Brayley, Robin Borneman, and Caleb Johnson. The lighting effects were such that the instrumentalists were in silhouette against a bright backdrop depicting worldly images viewed from on high.

Bryan Hicks, TSO narrator, telling a Christmas tale at the John Paul Jones Arena, Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Introducing the story, long time TSO member Bryan Hicks’ baritone voice played the narrator. He spoke of the young and old men, sitting and talking at the old city bar, and the angel who was viewing the earth from afar. An angel, sent down by God to find the good with mankind on a cold Christmas Eve. The first song, “An Angel Came Down” tells the story of this decent. “An Angel came down, one night to the Earth, A Mission from God, to bring back the worth”.

As we hear the story in words and music, musicians Chris Caffrey (guitar), Derek Wieland (keyboard), Jeff Plate (drums), Roddy Chong (electric violin), Mee Eun Kim (keyboards), Tony Dickenson (bass), and Joel Hoekstra (guitar) put on quite a show. Chong’s animated violin was quite entertaining, as be brought the story to life on the strings.

The first ‘book’ continued, the audience learned the angel’s first earthly experience was the sound of the faithful coming from a church. Knowing there was more to see, the angel continued the search and heard a crying parent, grieving a child who had run away and silent. It was to be a sad Christmas without her. Far away, the child was cold and alone, outside an old city bar, trying to go home.

Through what is possibly divine intervention or perhaps just fate, the angel witnesses the girl reunited with her family thanks to the generosity of a bartender with a greed-streak of Scrooge proportions.

The end is a mystery, as the old man, weaving this tale at the old city bar leaves on the snowy night. The young man, who had been drowning his sorrows in a glass goes to the door, sees the man had disappeared, and there were no tracks in the snow. Funny how things like that happen this wonderful time of year.

“For the first time since my childhood I dreamt a Christmas dream.” Quite Dickensesque!


The lights dim, the audience cheers and the show begins with “Who I Am”. The choir, in the forefront, takes the spotlight. The West tour cast includes a very talented group of vocalists that include Andrew Ross, April Berry, Ashley Hollister, Chloe Lowery, Dino Jelusic, Jeff Scott Soto, Jodi Katz, John Brink, Nate Amor, Rosa Laricchiuta and Russell Allen.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra west performing at the BB&T Arena in Sunrise, FL on 12/13/2019. Photo credit: Ivan Romero

Phillip Brandon’s deep baritone voice is perfect for the telling of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. An angel is sent down by God and roams the skies and hears the cries of a parent. The story, set in the Old City Bar, is a telling of the pain felt by a parent longing for a long, lost child.  The band, consisting of Al Pitrelli (Guitar), Angus Clark (Guitar), Asha Mevlana (Violin), Blas Elias (Drums), Jane Mangini (Keyboards),  Johnny Lee Middleton (Bass) and Vitalij Kuprij (Keyboard).

As the story goes, the angel becomes aware of the girl, cold and alone, with a longing to come home. The hand of God was in play, as the girl is miraculously reunited with her family through the blessing of a stranger. As the story comes to an end, the man lending an ear to the distraught father leaves the bar. The grieving father goes to the door to look for the man immediately after, only to find no one there and no tracks in the snow.

Thus ends the telling of the story and the mystery of a Christmas Blessing.

Christmas Eve and Other Stories

An Angel Came Down (John Brink on vocals)
O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
The Prince of Peace (Chloe Lowery on vocals)
First Snow
A Mad Russian’s Christmas
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)(Savatage cover)
Good King Joy (Rosa Laricchiuta on vocals)
Ornament (Jeff Scott Soto on vocals)
Old City Bar (Nate Amor on vocals)
Promises to Keep (Chloe Lowery on vocals)
This Christmas Day (Jeff Scott Soto on vocals)
An Angel Returned (John Brink on vocals)

Book the Second – Let the fun begin.

Now that all was again happy in the world and the angel returned home, it was time for TSO to rock the audiences with a mix of powerful Christmas Carols and other rock classical pieces from their album collective.


The second ‘book’ was less about the story and more about the history. Opening with a melody of Savatage (a band that spawned several TSO members, including the founders) tunes – “The Storm” (Wake of the Magellan) and “The Mountain” (adapted from “Prelude to Madness” on Hall of the Mountain King). To finish off their Savatage tunes, they performed “A Handfull of Rain” (from the album of the same name). Two Savatage / TSO shared numbers included “Believe” and “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”.

Joel Hoekstra and Mee Eun Kim performing with TSO East at the John Paul Jones Arena. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Caffrey, one of the founding members of TSO, delivered a heartfelt tribute of the late Paul O’Neill. The tribute was done in the form of a never performed on tour song, “Can You Hear Me Now”, which had been found on a cassette tape among O’Neill’s belongings. Kayla Reeves delivered powerful vocals with Joel Hoekstra accompanying her on acoustic guitar.

As we went to the finale for the night, we were treated to duel between Mee Eun Kim and Derek Weiland on keyboards with “Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)“. Based on Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2“, this is a piece that energizes the audience. In addition to keys, the guitar and violin were almost theatrical, as the band members ventured out into the audience to give a little up close and personal attention to the fans.

Winding down in a mega-energetic fashion, they finished with the powerful “Requiem” from Beethoven’s Last Night and a reprise of “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”. The crowd was going crazy.


Once the story completes, TSO keeps the evening going with a long list of songs that are traditional and additional Savatage covers. There is a solemn moment in which guitarist Al Pitrelli pays tribute to TSO founder Paul O’Neill with a song found in the studio called “Can you Hear Me Now” with vocals by Dino Jelusick.

Al Pitrelli of Trans-Siberian Orchestra west performing at the BB&T Arena in Sunrise, FL on 12/13/2019. Photo credit: Ivan Romero

The music and performance of Christmas Eve and Other Stories can stand alone as a spectacular show, but there is an additional talent, albeit somewhat behind the scenes. It involves the massive team that puts together the set and designs a lighting, pyrotechnic and effect experience that makes this one of the best shows I have ever seen.

The setlist for the second book includes:

The Storm / The Mountain
Handful of Rain (Savatage cover) (Andrew Ross on vocals)
Mozart / Figaro
Christmas Canon Rock (Chloe Lowery, Jodi Katz,… more )
Wizards in Winter
Can You Hear Me Now (Dino Jelusick on vocals)
Believe (Savatage cover) (Nate Amor on vocals)
Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
Requiem (The Fifth)
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)(Savatage cover)

Book the Last – Reliving the Classic Next Year

Sadly, after 2+ hours of stories and music, it was time for TSO to leave the stage and travel to the next legs of their journey. The cast and crew took their bows, with the front man from each tour bidding the local crowd adieu. As we departed, many of us were already thinking to next year when we will once again have the opportunity to relive this timeless classic. I could not help but think of a quote from another classic of Dickens, “God bless us everyone.” For it was a far, far better show than we have ever seen and it was a far, far better sound than we have ever heard. Most certainly, as we all sleep in our beds, we will all dream ‘Christmas dreams!’ 



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TSO East Photo Gallery 

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TSO 2019 Full Setlist

Who I Am
An Angel Came Down
O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
The Prince of Peace
First Snow
A Mad Russian’s Christmas
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Good King Joy
Old City Bar
Promises to Keep
This Christmas Day
An Angel Returned

The Storm / The Mountain
Handful of Rain
Christmas Canon Rock
Wizards in Winter
Can You Hear Me Now
Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
Requiem (The Fifth)
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)

Show Date:
12/12/2019 The John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA – Photo and Story by: Dave Pearson
12/13/2019 The BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fl – Photo and Story by: Ivan Romero

The song that started it all, “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo“: