Arts and Entertainment

'Nutcracker' highlights Federal Way Symphony's Christmas show

Courtesy of Betty Huff,

Federal Way Symphony

In Paris in the 1880s, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky became intrigued with the celeste, an instrument with an interesting and unusual sound. He decided to use it as the featured solo instrument in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” for "The Nutcracker" suite. Having a dreamlike quality with ethereal tinkling sounds, the celeste is often used in ballets and operas for dream sequences and fairy tales. It is no wonder that the English translation from the French word “celeste” is “heavenly.” John Williams' soundtrack for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" featured the celeste for the fairy tale tones in an opening solo with music box tones, and also throughout the soundtrack. Many concertgoers mistake the celeste for a muted glockenspiel when heard in an orchestra setting. While it resembles the glockenspiel in sound, its appearance more resembles a small upright piano with keyboard.

Celebrating in style, the celeste will appear Dec. 5 in the Federal Way Symphony’s Christmas Extravaganza program, which features "The Nutcracker" suite with its celeste-inspired “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” The suite also includes “Overture Miniature,” “The March,” “Russian Dance,” “Arabian Dance,” "Chinese Dance,” “Dance of Mirlitons” and “Waltz of the Flowers.”

In Western countries, "The Nutcracker" has become perhaps the most popular of all ballets, performed primarily during the Christmas season. In the United States, especially since the 1960s, it has transcended its origins as a mere ballet or piece of classical music, becoming a part of American tradition.

At the Dec. 5 show, the Federal Way Symphony Choral Society will sing a medley of Christmas carols: “Jingle Bells,” “The Very Best Time of the Year,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and selections from “Christmas on Broadway.”

Sponsors for the concert include Waste Management, City of Federal Way Arts Commission, Puget Sound Energy and City of Federal Way Enhancement Grant.

If you go

Christmas Extravaganza begins at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 at St. Luke’s Church, 515 S. 312th St., Federal Way. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors (65 and over). Students 18 and under are admitted free. Tickets are available at (253) 529-9857, online at or at the door.

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