The Coachella Valley Symphony.

There have been a bunch of great holiday-themed concerts around the valley—and just five days before Christmas, the Coachella Valley Symphony will performing Holiday Magic at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School.

The Coachella Valley Symphony is a local 50-piece orchestra that generally performs four to six concerts per year. The Holiday Magic concert this year will include a special guest: vocalist Patricia Welch, a musical-theater star who has performed with Yul Brynner and Robert Goulet. There will also be a guest conductor, John Mario Di Costanzo, who was the principal tour conductor for Jackie Evancho’s Dream With Me and Songs From the Silver Screen tours.

During a recent phone interview, Alana Joos, the orchestra manager and a percussionist, said the selection of the music was a collaborative process.

“Many times, the conductor will choose the entire program, but this season, we have guest conductors conducting each individual concert,” she said. “Some of the music was programmed by the conductor, and some of the music was programmed by a committee of people that met and discussed what kind of program we would want to have for the December concert.”

Getting John Mario Di Costanzo as the guest conductor for Holiday Magic was a result of perfect timing: Jackie Evancho’s management decided not to use a live orchestra for her tour dates this year.

“(John Mario Di Costanzo) still works with Jackie Evancho. They have changed the formatting on their concerts, so he’s become more available to do other things, because he’s not on tour as much with Jackie,” Joos said.

Joos conceded that the symphony has struggled to diversify its audience. This season, the symphony is hoping it can accomplish that by diversifying its concert offerings as well: Upcoming concerts include European Masters (Jan. 18), a concert that will include pieces by Rachmaninoff and Saint-Saens; An Afternoon at the Movies (March 1), which will focus on movie favorites from John Williams and others; and Comedy at the Symphony (April 11), an evening of music and comedy.

“Generally, audiences that come to see symphony concerts are usually (from) the baby boomer generation,” she said. “However, this season, we’re trying to program things that do appeal to a younger audience and a broader audience base, so we’re just not targeting senior citizens. This specific concert is pretty generic, because it’s a holiday concert, so it has everything.”

An Afternoon at the Movies is one show that Joos hopes will attract a younger audience.

“That one would really be a fun one for younger people who aren’t familiar with going to orchestra concerts, because it’s going to include a lot of music from John Williams and some of the other heavy film scores,” she said.

Holiday Magic features many of the selections you’d expect at a holiday concert, but Joos said the 70-minute concert should please with a broad number of selections. 

“We’re doing “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; we’re doing traditional holiday stuff that is commonly heard at holiday concerts like The Nutcracker; and for our Jewish audience, we’re including a piece called ‘The Festive Sounds of Chanukah.’”

Patricia Welch told the Independent she was excited about the chance to perform with the Coachella Valley Symphony.

“They’re a community orchestra, but they’re wonderfully seasoned players,” she said. “I live here in the desert, and I’ve performed with the orchestra once in the past, and now they’ve invited me back to perform at the holiday concert with them.”

Welch said she was impressed by the program.

“There are delightful songs,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful pops-orchestra sound, with all the great Christmas classics, and it really gets people in the mood for Christmas. It’s really festive, and it’s a wonderful event for people to bring out of town guests.”

The Coachella Valley Symphony will perform Holiday Magic at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High, 31001 Rattler Road, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $25 to $45. For tickets or more information, visit

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...