by MIKE CHAIKEN
Each year like clockwork, Trans-Siberian Orchestra hits the road around the winter holidays.
For many fans, a TSO concert has been as much of a holiday tradition as decorating the Christmas tree.
As touring musicians, the group itself gets to experience the holiday spirit ‑ not only in their own household but in communities across America.
For the members of TSO, this life on the road has become their own Christmas tradition. And for the group, their visit blurs the lines between regional manifestations of the holiday spirit.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to Hartford’s XL Center on Nov. 24 for two performances. For this tour, the group will be putting the spotlight on its classic album from 1996, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.”
Guitarist Al Pitrelli of TSO said, of the group’s holiday celebration on the road, “This will be our 21st year touring so, to be completely honest with you, I don’t really know anything different any longer.”
“For a lot of our fans, they don’t know any different either,” said drummer Jeff Plate. “And it’s come to a point where a lot of these people… can’t celebrate Christmas or get into the spirit until they see our show.”
“It’s a huge responsibility, not just to perform this show, but we also realize that a lot of these people really kind of depend on us to kick this whole thing into gear in terms of the holiday spirit, so it’s very cool,” said Plate.
“To go out and, first of all, bring this to life (‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’) night after night, year after year, it’s an honor and a privilege as, not only a musician, but just as a part of the story-telling team,” said Pitrelli.
“It is a very different way to spend the holidays, but it’s the most wonderful way I could have ever dreamed of doing it because it’s just Christmas twice a day for about six weeks,” said Pitrelli.
“Sometimes you look out there and it is kind of, I guess, an extended family of sorts,” said Pitrelli. “The first four or five songs, you’re looking out acknowledging each other, from the audience to the stage and the stage to the audience.”
Pitrelli said, “We’ve made a lot of friends over the years. We’ve become friends with probably 30%, 40% of the people in these arenas. They’re what we essentially refer to as our ‘repeat offenders.’ Some of them been coming since… the first show we ever did.”
Although touring is TSO’s Christmas celebration, there are drawbacks with life on the road.
“Being away from home, it can be a drag at times,” said Plate.
“At the same time, we have this extended family of about a million people a year,” said Plate.
To add to the TSO members’ holiday tradition, Pitrelli said, their families often join them on the road.
“My wife and my daughters and my sons will visit me a couple times, and we have Christmas in a different city every year,” said Pitrelli.
“When we get home on Dec. 30, New Year’s Eve then becomes our home ‑ or our family ‑ traditional Christmas, even though New Year’s Day becomes Christmas Day for us,” said Pitrelli.
“From the outside looking in, (people are) like well, how can you do that,” said Pitrelli. “But from us looking out… we don’t really know any different.”
“We love this and this is what we do,” said Pitrelli.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday, Nov. 24 for two shows, 3 and 7:30 p.m. For information, go to XLCenter.com or Trans-Siberian.com.