Columbus Symphony concert Sunday a community gift

Josh Aerie is a careful Christmas shopper for the 300 to 400 people on his list.

Naturally, he wants his selections to be fresh, creative and heartwarming. And that is the gift that he and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra are giving the community at the mostly volunteer ensemble’s free, annual yuletide concert “A CSO Holiday” at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Most years, the gathering has attracted 300 to 400 people, which represent the dearest music lovers on Aerie’s “list.”

“I love the process of preparing holiday music,” said Aerie, the orchestra’s conductor and music director. “It’s a joy in part because one can look ahead to the concert and know that the audience so appreciates it all and so enjoys hearing that music.

“But I also make a point of programming holiday concerts in a creative and eclectic way, especially for the holidays. I kind of take it as a challenge to ask myself, ‘What new, innovative and creative pieces can we work into the program?

“And I want a balance between fun and recognizable holiday pieces and some like the (strings-only) Josef Suk meditation on the old Czech chorale ‘St. Wenceslas.’”

As part of the orchestra’s centennial season, the program, like every one through June, will include some of the ensemble members’ requested pieces that have been done through the years.

On tap are Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and “A Christmas Festival,” and also “Tintinnabulations,” a special orchestral arrangement of “Jingle Bells.”

“That one’s a lot of fun,” Aerie said. “It has a great, jazzy section in the middle and is a really rousing, audience pleaser, and is always a favorite.”

The concert’s centerpiece work will be Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation,” which has been a favorite of many orchestra members since Aerie’s first season in 2015. The piece includes the well-known hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” in the fourth movement.

“So that even fits into the Thanksgiving season, which we have just passed,” Aerie said.

Violinist Laura Andrews loves that work, which she first performed with a solo with an orchestra in high school.

“Mendelssohn’s one of my favorite composers, because of his violin concerto,” Andrews said. “I fell in love with it then.”

The Andrews Strings Studio students will entertain on The Commons stage at 3 p.m. with pre-concert tunes.

“This” Andrews said, “is definitely the students’ biggest visibility of the year.”