James Wells strings lights to a large wreath in preparation for the Waco Symphony Orchestra’s “Holly Jolly Holiday Concert” Friday night at Waco Hall.


The Waco Symphony Orchestra’s biennial holiday show returns Friday night and this year’s “Holly Jolly Holiday Concert” sees a little more pop for the pops part of the lineup.

Specifically, one of the new additions to the traditional concert is “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” written by pop star Mariah Carey with producer Walter Afanasieff for her 1994 Christmas album. It has become a Christmas standard, with more than 16 million copies sold and cover versions by a Who’s Who of pop performers.

McLennan Community College vocal instructor Bronwen Forbay will sing the Carey single as well as the Christmas standard “O Holy Night.”

It joins a lineup familiar to the audiences that turn out for the holiday pops concert that the WSO does every other year, with “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “The Christmas Song,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” There’s also the concert-ending snow medley whose sprinkling of artificial snow above the orchestra and those in the front center seats whispers something rarely seen in Waco: a white Christmas.

Show producer Jerry MacLauchlin said “All I Want” demonstrate the combination of popular music hits with popular WSO traditions. “I think what they did this year was pick songs that audiences really, really like with songs that are really popular,” he said in a recent phone interview.

MacLauchlin, 71, is one of the returning traditions. He retired from his longtime position with McLennan Community College in 2015 and stepped away from other community presentations that he had produced or choreographed, such as the annual Cotton Palace Pageant.

He hasn’t cut the cord with the WSO holiday concert, however. He writes the stage script, secures the non-orchestral talent and dresses the Waco Hall stage with trees, lights and plenty of seasonal sparkle. “This is my baby from the beginning,” he said. “When I started, we had one tree (onstage) with maybe 30 lights on it. Now we have 60 trees.”

And, by his estimate, some 100,000 lights twinkling in their branches. That means work for MacLauchlin, collaborator Rex Martin and the Waco Hall production staff, but MacLauchlin’s okay with that. “Once every two years — surely I can do that,” he laughed.

Friday’s concert will feature the WSO’s red-haired principal percussionist Layci Dagley on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and flutists Charlotte Daniel and Lee Ashley Fletcher and harpist Karen Thomas on Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves.’ ”

Joe Calao returns as concert emcee as do Santa and Mrs. Claus (Heyward and Marsha Green), elves (local children) and a live reindeer in the Waco Hall lobby.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor