Trans-Siberian Orchestra Returns with Holiday Favorites

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On its upcoming tour, Trans-Siberian Orchestra will go back to its earliest days and perform its original production, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.”

For Mee Eun Kim, longtime keyboardist for the act, it’s like coming home.

The rock-meets-classical act, which does a holiday season tour every year, made “Christmas Eve” – its debut album – the focus of its show for its first 12 years, from 1999 to 2011. After that, it rotated shows based on its other albums.

“I joined Trans-Siberian in 2000 and [“Christmas Eve”] was what I did the first time,” says the Korean-born Kim.  “We did it every year until 2011 and that is a long time.”

TSO will return to Youngstown for two shows at Covelli Centre on Nov. 15. Its last local appearance was in 2016.

“Christmas Eve” takes listeners all over the world to help reunite a young girl with her distraught father.

Kim likes all of TSO’s different shows, but when pressed, she admits she is most fond of “Christmas Eve,” and thinks fans feel the same.

“It’s a treat for those who have been there from the beginning, because they are coming back to the first TSO show they ever saw,” she says. “And for the more recent fans, it is a new show altogether.”

Trans-Siberian shows are known for over-the-top special effects, including pyrotechnics, lasers and lighting, catwalks and massive set pieces. The act is promising bigger and better staging for the return of “Christmas Eve,” but don’t ask Kim what to expect.

“I only have a brief idea because they don’t show us until [the tour] starts,” she says. “I only saw the blueprint and it is huge and amazing. We always say, ‘How do we top last year?’ and bring something new and amazing. It’s what Paul wanted. We never repeat.”

Kim is referring to Paul O’Neill the creator of Trans-Siberian Orchestra who died in 2017. The upcoming tour will mark the first “Christmas Eve” show since his death.

The visionary O’Neill created TSO and built it into a concert-industry juggernaut and a holiday tradition.

Keyboardist Mee Eun Kim performs during a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. The act will perform Nov. 15 at Covelli Centre. Photo by Jason McEachern. 

The fact that it has continued unabated without missing a beat is perhaps O’Neill’s greatest legacy, says Kim.

“When he was around, he made sure we had the best people in the industry,” says Kim. “He had an amazing eye and feeling for getting the right people, who put their passion and love and belief into this project. And not just musicians, but also the crew. He built it on such a strong foundation, with respect and trust in everybody. That’s why we continue to do what we do. We’re like family.”

Back to the pyro.

Audiences at TSO shows are going to see plenty of it. Fireballs from the stage will punctuate the performance at regular intervals, and even those 100 rows back will feel the heat.

So how hot does it get for the performers, who are right in front of the flames?

“Oh my gosh, it is really hot,” says Kim, who actually looks forward to the pyro.

“Many of the arenas we play in are ice hockey arenas and it’s pretty cold,” she say. “I keep a little heater by my side and I have hand warmers in my gloves. I look forward to the first song with pyro because I am almost freezing by then.”

Kim’s music career began when she was a child; she made her first appearance on Korean television as a cast member of the morning show “TV Kindergarten.”

Her career took off while she was attending high school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She toured Southeast Asia with some of Korea’s most popular singers, and continues to collaborate with the likes of Moonse Lee and Kwangjin Kim to this day.

Kim, who studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, has produced albums for Tina Turner. She moved to Germany in 2003, where she works with German superstar Peter Maffay, and does television.

Since 2017, Kim has toured with Phillip Phillips, who won the 11th season of “American Idol.”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra has always been one of the top draws at Covelli Centre and its Nov. 15 visit will mean two capacity crowds in one day.

Eric Ryan, executive director of Covelli, says he feels fortunate when he is able to book the TSO tour.

“They’re a massive act that can play anywhere in the world, so it’s difficult to get them, especially when our capacity is less than what they typically play,” says Ryan. “I’d love to have them every other year, but we’re fortunate to get them when we do.”

The show’s special effects requirements represent a high-water mark for Covelli Centre.

“From that standoint, it’s the biggest show we do,” says Ryan. “To fit it all in this arena is not an easy task, and it’s great that we can fit this tour in here, like they do in a 16,000-seat arena.”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra will give two concerts on Nov. 15: 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Pictured: This photo by Jason McEachern depicts the special effects each show provides.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.