Trans-Siberian Orchestra (often abbreviated as TSO) is a rock orchestra founded in 1996 by Paul O'Neill, who immediately approached long time friends Jon Oliva, Robert Kinkel, and Al Pitrelli. The band's musical style incorporates progressive rock, symphonic metal, and heavy metal, with influences from classical music. Trans-Siberian Orchestra has recorded and performed renditions of traditional Christmas songs, and these have been among their most popular works. They are also known for their elaborate concerts, complete with a full light show and dozens of pyrotechnics that are synchronized with the actual performance.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1996 in New York City by composer Paul O'Neill who immediately approached long time friends Jon Oliva, Robert Kinkel, and Al Pitrelli. The group's name is inspired by the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia, which Kinkel says connects many cultures otherwise isolated, much like music.
Roger Daltrey closing out a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.
O'Neill had managed and produced rock bands including Aerosmith, Humble Pie, and Scorpions, later writing for and producing Savatage, where he began working with Kinkel and Oliva. The concept for a band playing Christmas carols in a rock opera style was not received warmly by the industry, but quickly proved a success with adults as well as young people.
In the recording studio, Trans-Siberian Orchestra uses a full 60-piece orchestra and a choir. As of 2004, their touring band included fourteen vocalists, fourteen musicians, and two narrators.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra released their debut album Christmas Eve and Other Stories in 1996, and it remains their best-selling album. From then on, TSO cover arts are painted by popular artist Greg Hildebrandt. Their 1998 release The Christmas Attic was similarly a concept album with a Christmas theme. This album featured what remains one of their most recognizable songs, Christmas Canon, a take on Pachelbel's Canon in D.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra played their first live show in Philadelphia, PA in 1999. In 2000, they released their first (and to date only) non-Christmas album, Beethoven's Last Night, a concept album about Ludwig van Beethoven's last night on earth, during which he meets Fate, her son Twist, and Mephistopheles.
After several years of touring, they returned to the studio and subsequently released another full-length album, The Lost Christmas Eve, and the accompanying DVD/3-CD release The Christmas Trilogy, which contained all three of their Christmas albums to date.
TSO in concert, December 8, 2006.
The 2005 TSO tour placed twenty-first on the list of the most successful concert tours of the year, earning just over US$21 million. The string section comprises local musicians. Live shows are known for their extensive use of pyrotechnics, lasers & lights synchronized with the performance, all of which takes 15 hours to set up.
Shows are divided into two halves: the first consisting of the story and songs of Christmas Eve and Other Stories, the second a mix of songs from The Christmas Attic, Beethoven's Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, and a few miscellaneous covers (that in the past have included "Layla", "Immigrant Song", and "Proud Mary"), finishing with a reprise of "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24. The 2008 tour also featured a 2-song Savatage selection ("Prelude to Madness" from Hall of the Mountain King and "Believe" from Streets: A Rock Opera", although only the East touring company played both songs; the West company, for reasons unknown, only performed "Prelude To Madness".
Trans-Siberian Orchestra "Wizards in Winter" (2004)
"Wizards in Winter" exhibits the rock orchestra style of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Night Castle is a non-Christmas album of Trans-Siberian Orchestra that will be released on October 27, 2009. It will include a version of "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, which was previewed live by the band during their 2004-2008 tours. In an interview with Rockmymonkey.com, Jon Oliva confirmed that he would be recording vocal parts for the album (the last Trans-Siberian Orchestra album to feature Oliva's vocals was 2000's Beethoven's Last Night). Kurdt Vanderhoof of Metal Church would also contribute guitar parts to the album.
During performances of their 2006 tour, Chris Caffery stated that production of Nightcastle was behind schedule largely because of the band's perfectionism. This delay echoes the two-year delay in the release of Beethoven's Last Night and the year-long delay in the release of The Lost Christmas Eve. TSO stated, on their website, that they are "buried in the studio" attempting to finish the album.
In several cities during their 2007-2008 winter tour, a joke was made on-stage as to what we would be more likely to see in our lifetimes: a McDonald's on Mars, or the release of the long awaited album. This was followed by the band's performance of 'O Fortuna' which will be on the upcoming album. Trans-Siberian Orchestra has consistently surprised New York/New Jersey fans with a special encore every year. From 2005-2008 the orchestra included special appearances by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Joan Jett, and other celebrities from the rock world.
In the 2008 edition of TSO's souvenir program there is a page featuring "excerpts from the lyrics on Nightcastle copyrighted 2007 Paul O'Neill. The song is titled "There Was a Life" and is adjacent to a full page photo of Al Pitrelli on the west coast and a picture of Robert Kinkel on the east coast. This song is not one of the three featured in the concert, but a few new instrumentals have currently been performed.
In a interview at ytsejam.com, Jon Oliva mentioned the project went into its final stages and mixing on August 10, 2008. He also made mention of the album being a double album, half Paul O'Neill's "rock opera" and half instrumental.
On October 8, 2008, when Paul O'Neill was interviewed on Seattle's Bob Rivers radio show, he mentioned that during 2008's TSO Christmas tour, more songs will be played from Nightcastle, but the album may not be released until the summer of 2009 (if not later). On November 24, 2008, TSO released "Night Enchanted", the first song on the album via Amazon MP3. The song is also available to purchase on iTunes.
In early April 2009, the Web site nightcastlealbum.com was discovered to be active. As of August 2009, Amazon.com indicates that Night Castle is a 2-disc set scheduled for release on October 27, 2009.
TSO tours and touring groups
Trans-Siberian Orchestra first took the show on the road in 1999, with a handful of concerts in Philadelphia, New York City, Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit. The next year, two separate touring groups were formed to allow the band to cover more ground in the short holiday timeframe. TSO has maintained the two-group format since then, and by the 2008 tour, both groups were on the road from the beginning of November to the first week in January. The two touring groups are informally known as TSO East and TSO West, although these descriptions are not entirely literal; before 2008, for example, TSO West historically played in Atlanta and Florida. Both groups have appeared in Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Indianapolis.
The 2008 touring groups were as follows.
TSO West, 2008 Touring Members
TSO East, 2008 Touring Members
Chris Altenhoff (bass)
Angus Clark (guitar)
Tommy Farese (vocals; lead on "Ornament" and "This Christmas Day")
Scout Ford (vocals; lead on "Good King Joy")
Anthony Gaynor (narrator)
Christie George (vocals)
Kristen Lewis Gorman (vocals; lead on "Queen of the Winter Night")
Erin Henry (vocals; lead on "Promises to Keep" and "Christmas Canon")
Steena Hernandez (vocals)
Jane Mangini (keyboards)
John O'Reilly (drums)
Al Pitrelli (guitar, musical director)
Andrew Ross (vocals; lead on "An Angel Came Down" and "An Angel Returned")
Bart Shatto (vocals; lead on "Old City Bar")
Jeff Scott Soto (vocals; lead on "Prince of Peace")
Derek Weiland (keyboards)
Mark Wood (string director)
Alison Zlotow (strings)
Steve Broderick (vocals; lead on "Old City Bar")
Lucinda Anne Butler (keyboards)
Chris Caffery (guitar)
Roddy Chong (strings)
Jamey Garner (vocals; lead on "An Angel Came Down" and "An Angel Returned")
Alexa Goddard (vocals)
Bryan Hicks (narrator)
Tim Hockenberry (vocals; lead on "Believe")
Bob Kinkel (keyboards, musical director)
Danielle Landherr (vocals; lead on "Queen of the Winter Night")
Johnny Lee Middleton (bass)
James Lewis (vocals; lead on "Ornament" and "This Christmas Day")
Anna Phoebe (string master)
Jay Pierce (vocals; lead on "Prince of Peace" and "Good King Joy")
Jeff Plate (drums)
Kelly Valentina Porter (vocals)
Alex Skolnick (guitar)
Adrienne Warren (vocals; lead on "Promises to Keep" and "Christmas Canon")
Members (past, present and touring only)
Paul O'Neill - Composer, lyricist, producer
Jon Oliva - Composer
Robert Kinkel - Co-Producer, Keyboards, music director
Al Pitrelli - Guitars, music director
Anthony Gaynor (also Narrator)
Kristin Lewis Gorman
Scout (Scout Ford)
Bryan Hicks (also Narrator)
Jeff Scott Soto
Johnny Lee Middleton
John O. Reilly
Mee Eun Kim - Keyboards
Maxx (Max Mann)
Zachary Stevens - Vocals
Tany Ling - Vocals
David Z - Bass
Daryl Pediford - Vocals
Michael Lanning - Vocals
Guy LeMonnier- Vocals
Marisa Rhodes - Vocals
Cellist: Elliza Esquavez