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Victoria Symphony’s Christmas Pops concert returning to Qualicum Beach

New conductor looks to bring unique take on well-loved classics and recent music
Sean O’Loughlin is the new Principal Pops Conductor for the Victoria Symphony, and will be coming to Qualicum Beach for their Dec. 10 Christmas Pops performance. — Kevin Light Photo

The Victoria Symphony’s new Principal Pops Conductor said the Christmas season still kindles a childlike glee in him — it’s something he carries into his work on the symphony’s Christmas Pops concert, coming to Qualicum Beach Dec. 10.

“When the holidays come around, I turn into a six-year-old kid waiting for Santa Claus to put the presents under the tree,” said Sean O’Loughlin, the symphony’s new Principal Pops Conductor.

“And I have two daughters now. My wife and I are just loving this time of year because they are six and nine years old, and it’s just a magical time.”

O’Loughlin’s career thus far has focused a lot on pops conducting. He has a wealth of experience leading orchestras, including the Vancouver Symphony, the Victoria Symphony, and in the U.S. the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Pops Orchestra and currently the Symphoria in Syracuse.

Much of that comes from music arranging for rock bands and singer/songwriters, he said. Josh Groban and Sarah McLachlan, Adele and others are just a few musicians he’s collaborated with.

“I started writing for all these different performers that are playing with orchestras, I just said hey, if you need someone to conduct, let me know, I’ll jump in, and that’s kind of how it started.”

O’Loughlin’s first pops gig was in fact with the Victoria Symphony in 2011, he said, adding he’s excited to return.

“(The performance) is about really featuring the orchestra and the wonderful players in the Victoria Symphony,” he said. “They just bring so much to a performance, and giving them material that allows them to shine even more is really the name of the game.”

Beyond that, O’Loughlin said his focus is on bringing new life to well-beloved holiday favourites.

“It’s music that we’re very familiar with on the surface, but what I try to do with the holiday pops programs that I put together is I try to either write some new arrangements myself that re-imagine old classics that we’ve come to know and love, or I’ll seek out some really creative arrangements that will do a similar thing… It’s something familiar, but will still stretch your musical ears and your musical enjoyment along the way.”

The upcoming performance features six arrangements by O’Loughlin including Santa Baby, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Other songs on the program include Chanukah Festival Overture, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Elf Suite from the Motion Picture, and Polar Express (from the movie The Polar Express).

“We have wonderful new christmas movies coming out every year it seems,” he said, noting that he worked behind the scenes on the music for both Elf and The Polar Express.

“This music is really near and dear to my heart and it’s wonderful to be on this side… of the stage now and be able to conduct this great music with the Victoria Symphony.”

O’Loughlin added that he’s thrilled to be working with the Vox Humana Chamber Choir and mezzo soprano Rebecca Hass for the performance, taking place Monday, Dec. 10 at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available at Mulberry Bush bookstores.

In and amongst Qualicum Beach-area music lovers is expected a special guest: Lt.-Gov. Janet Austen.

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