Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Al Pitrelli has been a good boy this year.
But for the guy who’s been the prog-rock Santa Claus to more than 8 million concert attendees since 1999, his gifts come in the forms of fan art, charity and the inseparable intertwining with American holiday culture that powers TSO’s merry sleigh of metal.
“I travel with my two Boston terriers. People send me drawings and sketches of them,” Pitrelli said. “Which is adorable. We also get given stuff drawn by kids in a hospital bed, and that will always stand out in my mind. It’ll always hang up on my wall, with the most important treasures I’ve collected over the years.”
The band’s rich, orchestral-rock take on classical music and Christmas standards have proven a lucrative enter prise, selling more than 7.5 million CDs since the release of the triple-platinum “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” in 1996, which annually registers as a top-five holiday album in U.S. sales.
And, of course, there’s the stage show. TSO’s music prodigiously translates into an epic arena-rock spectacle.
Pitrelli likened the massive pageant’s success to a father’s pride.
“It’s almost like having your first child. Ad over 17 years, the child grows up, is valedictorian of the high school and marches off to MIT or Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship and you go, ‘How in the “Wide World of Sports” did this happen to me?’” he said. “I wake up every morning and go, ‘Really? You’re kidding.’” The success has bound his band within the very fiber of American holiday culture.
“I’ve become part of something that’s not only musically one of the greatest things I’ve ever done, if not the greatest thing I’ve ever done, but we’ve become part of people’s families, of their tradition,” Pitrelli said. “And in a positive way.”
TSO’s next album is tentatively titled “Gutter Ballet,” but Pitrelli said nothing specific about its progression, joking, “We got interrupted by this pesky winter tour. … [Composer Paul O’Neill is] not gonna mass-produce it like a bunch of McMansions. He wants to build an 18th-century Victorian by hand. It’s gonna take a little longer than Home Depot prefabs, y’know?”
Photo by Mark Weiss