Rockin' Wonderland

Wizards of Winter: Husband-and-wife team to play Granite State

Special to the Union Leader
December 13. 2017 12:49PM
Inspired by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the progressive rock-opera ensemble Wizards of Winter has based its latest tour around the music on both its debut CD and follow-up release “The Magic of Winter.” 
If you go...
WHO: Wizards of Winter

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Tupelo Music Hall, 10A St., Derry

TICKETS: $40, $45 and $55

INFO:; 437-5100

This Christmas, shake up your holiday entertainment agenda with a little rock ‘n’ roll magic.

Wizards of Winter, a progressive rock-opera ensemble, will present a whirlwind performance Friday at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.

Scott Kelly, Wizards of Winter’s musical director and keyboardist, says the show is a chance to escape the hectic season to embark on at trip through a musical wonderland.

“It’s a 2-1/2-hour rollicking concert where we take you on a journey inside a snow globe aboard a mythical vehicle we call the ‘Arctic Flyer.’ We go in search of the true meaning of Christmas,” he says.

That journey includes trips to see the first Christmas, the North Pole and New York City, but Kelly adds it’s not just about the locations but the feelings they evoke.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster where you get to experience all the different things that people feel at the holiday time,” he says. “Some people are happy and joyous, others are more melancholy and sad. It wraps it up in what we think is the true spirit of Christmas, which goes beyond the religious connotation to spending time with family, loved ones and friends, and taking care of one’s neighbor.”

Sharon Kelly, a flautist and vocalist in the group as well as wife to Scott Kelly, agrees the show’s mood runs from joyous to thoughtful, upbeat to dramatic.

“It’s snowy. We’re throwing beach balls out to the audience. Mrs. Claus comes out to the audience with candy canes,” she says.

Holiday blues

But then the group explores some somber moments that reflect on the loneliness and sadness some are experiencing.

“The song could have a dramatic presentation in the darkness,” Sharon says. “So I think the audience gets a very wide array of emotions. We’ve had people say they’re laughing, but then we have songs that make them cry. So you can’t wrap this (show) up in too dramatic or not.”

Wizards of Winter’s eclectic sound originates from its evolving stable of artists. Former members of Trans Siberian Orchestra and British rock band Rainbow, as well as members of the bands of Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and Corey Glover (who also was the lead singer of Living Colour). Lead guitarist Fred Gorhau, drummer Tommy Ference, keyboardist Mary McIntyre, former TSO member and lead vocalist Guy LeMonnier and narrator Tony Gaynor have been with the band about four years. Sharon and Scott Kelly are the only original members of Wizards of Winter.

Their group’s 2015 album, “The Magic of Winter,” plays a big part in their show. Scott Kelly writes much of the music and lyrics, with help from his wife and Gorhau.

“It’s a combination of progressive rock and classical music and Broadway styles and even a little bit of heart thrown in. We look at the instrumentation that we have available to us and the topic that we’re going to write to, like a trip to the North Pole,” Scott says. “So we’ll adjust the music and the storyline accordingly, based on the instrumentation.”

There’s something different each holiday season; the only constant is the show’s concept of the snow globe as a conduit to Christmases past.

“We try to change things up and make it fresh,” he says.

Some threads of classic Christmas songs may also be recognizable to audience members.

“We have some of the traditional songs intertwined into our original music. Occasionally you’ll pick up a ‘Oh Holy Night,’” Sharon says.

“You might catch a phrase from ‘Little Drummer Boy’ or catch a phrase from ‘Ode To Joy,’ but the songs themselves are all original,” Scott adds.

For him, being the music director and keyboardist for such a large production was at first difficult to juggle.

“Once the show starts, I never leave that keyboard for 2-1/2 hours other than for the few moments of intermission. I’m there. (Narrator Gaynor) tells the story line, and I play musical interludes underneath all that. It was stressful in the beginning, but now it’s second nature,” Scott says.

The roots of progressive, electric rock have always been a core part of the band. Wizards of Winter began in December 2009 as a Trans-Siberian Orchestra tribute group to raise money for charity.

“That was the height of the recession at that time, so the local food pantry in our town was really hurting,” Scott says. “There were actually lines around the block for food. So I just thought ... let’s see what we could do to try to help them out.”

At that time, there were no thoughts of the group going on the road, or even making an album.

“We ... performed the one show, but we never had any visions of it going further than that,” he says. “(But) one show became two shows, which became 10. People really liked what we were doing, and they started asking us if they could buy our album, which, of course, there was no album. So that next year we started writing original music, and it’s grown a lot since then,” he added.

Sharon Kelly plays the Sankyo flute, similar to the flute Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull uses. The flute’s distinctive sound proves crucial to helping her be heard above the 12 other members.

“It has a very strong, low-tone quality, so that I’m able to kind of penetrate through a lot of the sound,” she said.

The light show is another bright spot to the Wizards of Winter.

“We have a substantial light show, and fog, and it snows during the show. It’s a pretty big production,” Scott says.

Both say it’s a good show for kids as well as adults.

“We have an audience of 8 to 80 basically. Some of it can be a little dark ... the second set is lighter, and I would say perhaps more fun, if you want to categorize it that way. But there’s something for everyone,” Sharon says.

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