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December 5, 2013

Sounds of the season

Hillyer Festival Orchestra performs five distinct shows this month

The Hillyer Festival Orchestra isn’t just playing on the North Shore this month, they’re touring it, with five concerts over the next nine days in Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead and Swampscott.

They will lift holiday spirits while featuring different soloists and programs almost every night, and two of their concerts will also raise money for important causes.

It all starts Saturday at 8 p.m. in the same place that the orchestra itself began 16 years ago: Peabody City Hall.

“Peabody City Hall founded the orchestra, with me and Peter Torigian, in 1998,” Hillyer said. “So, we always give them the first weekend.”

The soloist for the Peabody performances, Rebecca Robins, is currently appearing in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and was also in “Cats” in Philadelphia.

“She’s tremendous, and she’s going to be singing some Christmas songs, of course,” Hillyer said. “She’s also going to do a song from ‘Cats,’ ‘Memory,’ which has beautiful orchestration.”

Along with a number of Broadway songs, the concert will feature some movie songs, including “Where Are You, Christmas?” from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Also, the Peabody High School choir is going to be there and end up with a grand finale,” Hillyer said. “They will be featured on their own with ‘Magnificat’ by Durante, a baroque composer from the early 1700s.”

Hillyer, whose primary instrument is French horn, will also accompany Robbins on guitar for a few numbers.

“We’ll also give a tribute to Hanukkah and then have traditional sing-alongs,” he said.

The Peabody concert will be repeated Sunday at 5 p.m., and a few of its Broadway tunes and sing-alongs will also be performed at the Danvers concert on Sunday at 1 p.m.

“But we have a different soloist,” Hillyer said. “Renese King has soloed with us before and has come back for a return engagement. She’s a winner of the Boston Music Award for Gospel Artist of the Year and has sung with the Boston Pops many times.”

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