It wasn't exactly Jingle Bells or What Child is This?
But when 40 young strings students raised their bows to their violins and cellos and launched into Boil 'em Cabbage Down Sunday afternoon, they were rehearsing for a holiday concert, just the same.
The traditional American folk tune speaks of cabbage boiling and hoe cakes on the hearth, simple ingredients for a mountain-cabin meal.
So, it's fitting that the students are getting ready to play it with a Grammy Award-winning fiddler during Mark O'Connor's Appalachian Christmas, tonight in Scranton and Saturday in Wilkes-Barre with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.
The piece is fun. It's very fast-paced, said cellist Jonathan Jagozinski, 17, of Swoyersville.
When I was a little girl I always told people I wanted to play with the Philharmonic, said April Bonoski, 15, of Larksville, who is getting her chance this weekend, along with other students, ages 3 to 18, from the Suzuki School for Strings in Plains Township as well as Valenches Music Co. in Scranton.
The Philharmonic concert also will include direction by apprentice conductor Michelle Merrill, The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers danced by students from the Ballet Theatre of Scranton, and plenty of Christmas classics, from Silent Night and Winter Wonderland to Carol of the Bells and Sleigh Ride. The cello and violin students will join the orchestra in playing Frosty the Snowman.
Audiences appreciate traditional songs this time of year, said Bill Zdancewicz from the Wyoming Valley Harmony Chorus, which will include tunes both sacred and secular, in a Christmas Love Concert on Sunday in Wilkes-Barre.
Among the highlights of the concert, Zdancewicz said, he expects soloist Ralph Gillespie will sing Silent Night in German, Jim Morpeth will sing O Holy Night in French, and the audience will be invited to sing along during O Come All Ye Faithful.
Also participating in the concert will be young men from GAR High School and from Dallas Middle School who have been learning the art of four-part harmony from chorus members.
Like any parent watching young people take up a sport or learn a new skill, we feel good about passing it on, Zdancewicz said.
Glance through the concerts listings in today's Guide and you'll find about a dozen concerts celebrating the season this weekend. For the Northern Tier Symphony Brass, head to Dickson City, for blues and bluegrass, visit Jim Thorpe tonight, and for rock versions of traditional songs, visit Jim Thorpe on Saturday.
You'll find A Rita Coolidge Christmas at Penn's Peak, a Christmas cabaret in Carbondale, and an invitation from the Robert Dale Chorale to join them in singing Handel's Messiah at St. Stephen's Church in Wilkes-Barre.
If you opt for Christmas with a Twist at St. Mary's Church in Wilkes-Barre, remember to bring a non-perishable canned good for local food banks.
We've helped four organizations so far this year, guitarist and director Steve Perillo said.
What: The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic joins Grammy Award-winning composer and violinist Mark O'Connor for ‘Appalachian Christmas.'
When: 7 tonight at the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 N. Washington Ave., Scranton, and 7 p.m. Saturday at the F.M. Kirby Center, Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Tickets: $29 to $60. $15 for students
More info: 570-270-4444 or nepaphil.org
What: Christmas Love Concert
With: Wyoming Valley Harmony Chorus
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. Nicholas Church, 226 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre
More info: 287-2476
What: Christmas with a Twist
When: 7 tonight
Where: St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church, 134 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre
Admission: Non-perishable food item
More info: 899-2264