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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Exclusive Interview: 'Ornament'- 'TSO' Tribute Band Takes Holiday Rock Orchestra on the Road


You guys know what Black Friday means, right? Aside from shopping, crazy traffic and turkey leftovers Black Friday means that we are officially knee-deep in the holiday season. For many that means a whole slew of traditions that will be celebrated in the coming weeks and for nearly twenty years the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has often been a part of that. Every great rock band inevitably spawns a tribute band or two that are really worth taking a listen to and TSO is no different. 

Ornament (comprised of Chris Nunes, Rick Silvia, Brett Parker, Elena Walker-Jones, Scott Phillie, Mile DeLoid, J Salvatore, Michael Ventura, Todd Custadio, Jen Morotto and Candice Nowicki) is an east coast tribute to the now legendary rock orchestra, one that is sure to put you in the holiday mood. I had an opportunity to chat with Chris Nunes, the man behind the monstrous show, and he confirmed that what he thought would originally play small local auditoriums has taken on a bit of a life of its own. 

What motivated you to decide to piece together a TSO tribute? Has it been a bigger task to pull off then you originally expected? How long did it take you to actually put this show together?

Chris Nunes: My friend Michael Barber and I started out performing the music of TSO with our students when we were teaching together.  After a few years, we decided to give it a try in a more semi-professional level with the idea of making it a combination of Rock concert and Rock Musical.  In 2006 Michael took a job out of state and I decided the original idea was to much for one person, so I turned it into a TSO Tribute Band.

It has definitely been a bigger task than I originally expected, but mostly because the show has gotten so much bigger than I ever imagined it would.  I originally envisioned a group that would travel around Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and maybe into Connecticut doing shows in school auditoriums and raising money for the schools and local charities.  I never thought it would get to the point where we are touring up and down the East Coast and actually having to turn down some shows in the Midwest and Southwest because we couldn't find a way to make them fit into our schedule from a logistical standpoint.

The show concept didn't take long to put together, it's been pretty consistent from the beginning in 2006.  What changes year to year are some of the songs, we try to change out songs from year to year so that the music is fresh not only for the audience, but for us on stage as well.  We also change up the lighting production every year....I try to add a few new lighting effects every year to up the "wow factor" for the audience, especially those that come see us every year.  

The other nice thing about this show is that it's very flexible and can be tailored to each individual venue.  For some shows we do the tradition TSO style show and perform the complete "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" show in it's entirety complete with the narration.  For other venues we just perform a 75-90 minute set of TSO music, what I call a "greatest hits" kind of show.  It's nice to have that flexibility as a band because it opens up more performance opportunities for us.


- Has holiday music played a big part in your love for music in general?

CN: There was always Christmas music in my house during the holidays when I was growing up, but it wasn't until I was in High School and the priest at my church who was a big music lover himself recommended I get the Chicago Christmas Album.  Being a Saxophone player growing up, I always loved the horn bands like Chicago, Tower of Power, etc..and I just about wore out the Chicago album that December.  That was really the beginning of the real interest in Christmas music for me.  Once I discovered TSO it has become an even bigger love, though I find myself listening to other artists during Christmas time because I'm listening to the TSO albums year round putting this show together.

- I see that you are a music teacher, what do you love about your day job and what have the kids taught you?

CN: I teach elementary and middle school band, so I get to see the students progress from where they can barely put their instrument together and play simple little songs like "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "Hot Cross Buns" to becoming more and more proficient as a musician to where by the time they leave me after 8th grade they can play some challenging and complex musical literature.  I feel that I've learned as much from my students as they have learned from me, but the biggest thing I take away is that even though they don't always come out and say it, they want you to challenge them and push them to be the best that they can be.  I've always said that my biggest accomplishments are watching a student who is struggling with something, whether it's a part of the song that they can't get down, or even just being able to produce some sort of sound on their instrument and they keep working and working and it finally clicks for them and you see the satisfaction and pride on their face...that's what I love most about my job.

- What can people expect when they come out to see Ornament?

CN: People can expect a roller coaster ride of a show when they see Ornament.  We want the audience to have as much fun watching and listening to the show as we have performing it for them.  We play all the big TSO hits and some of the songs they haven't played live in a while.  You will see a big light show, some special effects, and a group of musician who really love performing this music.  Our goal is to make the show as close to a TSO show as possible, yet keep the setting nice and intimate.  We love talking with the audience after the show, so feel free to come up and say hi.

Check out Ornament's website here and their remaining tour dates are as follows:



Saturday, January 2nd - Lasalette Shrine, Attleboro, MA

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