Five years ago, tenor Marco Panuccio needed a piece of artwork to announce his O Holy Night concert season.
He found one, but realized it was copyrighted and did a Google search for the artist, Christi Payne. Payne was living in Astoria, a city Panuccio loves, and agreed to let him use the O Holy Night logo for his posters.
Panuccio still uses her artwork, and his connection to Astoria goes back more than 15 years to when he performed in Portland SummerFest at the Liberty Theatre and Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center. He also performed in the Astoria Music Festival in 2016.
“The people there are just so amazing and so beautiful and just absolutely lovely,” he said.
Panuccio is taking the stage again in Astoria when he performs his O Holy Night: A Classical Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at the PAC.
General admission tickets are $25, student tickets $15. They can be purchased in advance online at astoria.brownpapertickets.com.
Panuccio performed last December at Grace Episcopal Church with pianist Vincent Centeno, who will accompany Panuccio again.
Panuccio will sing an arrangement of “Still, Still, Still,” Schubert’s “Ava Maria,” an arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” modern Christmas songs and the concert’s title “O Holy Night.”
He’s also dedicating John Kander’s “A Letter From Sullivan Ballou,” which details the sacrifices of those who serve in the military, to all active and past military personal.
Charlene Larsen, president of Partners for the PAC — the group hosting Panuccio — said it’s important to provide concerts like this for audiences to experience during the holidays.
“I think just the O Holy Night piece of it is how we go forward into the Christmas season and the Hanukkah season and into the new year — that we take that spirit of the holidays with us into the new year,” Larsen said.
Refreshments and cookies during the intermission will be provided by Partners for the PAC and proceeds will go to the non-profit.
Music heals the soul
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Panuccio’s concert series.
Panuccio started it because he didn’t have any “Messiahs” to sing in that year, so he made his own opportunity.
The series began at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, where Panuccio has lived since 1998. Panuccio has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Beijing Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and other symphonies and operas.
It has grown over the years, from only Panuccio and an accompanist to a performance with an orchestra in 2014 that was recorded by PBS and earned Panuccio an Emmy nomination.
Panuccio said that during times of grief and sorrow, especially during the holidays, music has the power to heal audiences.
“Some people are sad, some people are very happy, but some people are sad because they’re suffering and music really does that — it brings people together and it unifies people and it really heals the soul,” he said.
Panuccio has also taken the concert across the U.S. since 2012, with performances in five to seven cities each year. He’ll perform in eight cities this year to celebrate the 10-year anniversary.
Seeing audiences’ faces when he’s singing brings Panuccio joy.
“When I’m singing to them, I want to bring my arms around the audience and just completely embrace them and bring them onto the stage with me …,” he said, “and I want them to experience the same joy that I experience as I’m performing for them.”
He also wants the concert to transport audiences to a “feel good” place and allow them to not worry about the hustle and bustle happening in their lives.
Above all, Panuccio wants audiences to remember what the holidays are truly about: “to be with your friends, with your family, with your loved ones and to celebrate this wonderful music.”
IF YOU GO
O Holy Night: A Classical Christmas Concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
Where: Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, 588 16th St., Astoria
Tickets: General admission $25, students $15. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at astoria.brownpapertickets.com