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Music / Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a rock orchestra from New York City conceived by Paul O'Neill in 1996. Their style mixes rock, metal and classical music into a famous sound almost anyone should recognize. All of their albums are rock operas and three of these (five albums in total) are Christmas rock operas. They have a lot of members. In total, there are three composers (four before the death of founder O'Neill in 2017), 20 vocalists, five guitarists, three bassists, two drummers, four keyboardists and three violinists currently playing with them, studio, live (in two touring groups, an East and a West) or otherwise. They have a legendary stage show because of their spectacular light shows, performing abilities and kick ass music. Despite being together for over 20 years, they've only released six albums, as their composers are known perfectionists. They delayed their album Night Castle for three years before it was finally released in October of 2009. While they would release the EP Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) in 2012, their next full-length album, Letters From the Labyrinth, would have to wait until mid-November 2015. They also delayed their second stage show, based on their Beethoven's Last Night album, for almost ten years before finally putting it on tour in spring of 2010. The stage show for The Lost Christmas Eve premiered in 2012, eight years after the release of the album.

They are also popular suppliers of music for overly ambitious homemade light shows, especially their song "Wizards in Winter" from their 2004 album The Lost Christmas Eve, as these videos show.

Studio Discography:

  • Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996)
  • The Christmas Attic (1998)
  • Beethoven's Last Night (2000, their first non-seasonal album)
  • The Lost Christmas Eve (2004)
  • Night Castle (2009, their second non-seasonal album)
  • Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) (2012, EP)
  • Letters From the Labyrinth (2015, their third non-seasonal album)


  • All There in the Manual: The albums all have a complex story tying all the songs together, but you might be surprised to discover this until your first time at the seasonal stage show. These stories can be found in their entirety in the CD liner notes or on the web page.
  • Ascended Meme: Remember that video where the guy synchronized his Christmas light decorations to "Wizards In Winter"? It's now the official video for that song. Check the preview on iTunes.
  • The Band Minus the Face: The band have continued on after the death of its lead member and producer Paul O' Neill.
  • Book Ends: In the written stories that accompany each album in TSO's Christmas Trilogy, the story begins with the Lord's youngest angel being sent on a mission to Earth. At the end of the story, the Angel returns to Heaven and presents the Lord with what he had found, and the Lord smiles at him in approval.
  • Broken Ace: In "The Lost Christmas Eve," the older man was the most perfect guy to ever walk the face of the earth, yet he had it all for so long that his wife's Death by Childbirth and his son's mutism (from prolonged lack of oxygen to the brain) utterly destroyed his world. I Have No Son! ensues.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Former band leader Paul O'Neill definitely bore more than a passing resemblance to Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne.
  • Chaos of the Bells: The TSO's cover of "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", to the melody of "Carol of the Bells", is perhaps one of the most poular instances of this trope, scoring a story of war and protest with an electric guitar rendition of the classic Christmas song.
  • Concept Album: All six of their albums are of the Rock Opera variety.
  • Cute Kitten: The music video for "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24" has a girl who brings out the magic of the orchestra, with cute, playful kittens to keep her company.
  • Darker and Edgier: One would imagine a Christmas album to be full of cheer and feel-good sentiment, but TSO's albums have just the slightest bite to them. For example, "Christmas Eve And Other Stories" deals with the conflict in Bosnia (then a household name on CNN); in "The Lost Christmas Eve," the Businessman's mute son works with crack babies.
    • Even relative to the examples above, Night Castle is Darker and Edgier than their previous albums, dealing with a genocide in southeast asia, and having entire songs about suicide, torture, and the horrors of combat. Oh, and the first main character dies in captivity at the start of Disc Two!
  • Despair Event Horizon: When the man from The Lost Christmas Eve lost his wife during childbirth and learned that his son would be permanently brain damaged, he went through a major one of these. Turning from a happy and idealistic man into a bitter and broken one.
  • Epic Rocking
  • Ethereal Choir: The bridge in "Wizards In Winter".
  • Heel Realization / Heel–Face Turn: The old man in The Lost Christmas Eve goes through this when he finally meets his son in person.
    • Tran-Do in Night Castle when he realizes how far he's strayed from his Confucian upbringing and ideals.
  • Instrumentals: Much of their material.
  • Mickey Mousing: A lot of their light shows, but most notably in "Wizards In Winter" with the constant ascending/descending scales. A lot of people have followed, making videos of Christmas lights playing along to the notes.
  • Motifs: The band has a lot of them. In general, they tend to associate themselves with winter, castles, and tigers, but a lot of their songs have their own motif that is featured in their live concerts.
    • "Who I Am" and "Night Enchanted": Time and space. "Night Enchanted" also seems to have themes of fire/phoenixes.
    • "Wizards In Winter": Castles.
    • "Mozart": Light. It's one of their flashiest songs live, prominently featuring lasers and spotlight effects.
    • "The Mountain": Lightning and dragons.
    • "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo": TV screens seems to be a staple that's featured both in the music video and live version.
    • "Good King Joy": The Christmas colors red and green, represented through spotlights.
    • "Carmina Burana": Fire.
    • "Requiem (The Fifth)": Thunderstorms and fire.
    • "A Mad Russian's Christmas": Nutcrackers, although it's a given considering that it's a medley of "The Nutcracker Suite".
    • "Wish Liszt": Clockwork.
    • "Mozart and Memories": Stars, fire, and clockwork.
    • "Dreams of Fireflies": Fireflies, obviously.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The band has no particular connection to Siberia or the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: When the man from The Lost Christmas Eve learns that his son (who was brain damaged by oxygen deprivation during his birth) will probably never learn to walk or speak, he screams toward Heaven, saying that if man was made in God's image, he sees nothing of God in his son. He then gives his son over to the care of a state-run facility.
    • The song Father, Son, and Holy Ghost suddenly turns from a slow, introspective monologue to a full-on bitter denouncement of God by a grieving woman who learned her husband was killed in captivity on the other side of the world.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Some of their songs have Ominous English Chanting. Examples include "Night Enchanted" (which covers Verdi's Requiem in the first part) and "Who I Am". However, Latin chanting does indeed show up in "Requiem (The Fifth)" and "Carmina Burana", although the former's quite a unique example in that it's purely female voices, making it sound almost angelic.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 was composed in 1995 and inspired by the then ongoing Siege of Sarajevo, and in particular, a story of a cellist, Vedran Smailović, who returned to the city in 1992 to find Sarajevo in ruins and, rather than hiding in the bomb shelters, went to the town square, got up on the rubble of a fountain, and started playing Mozart and Beethoven, and eventually Christmas carols on his cello, even as the city was being shelled. The song has an orchestra and the rock band, representing the two sides of the battle, and a lone cellist representing Smailović bringing a spark of hope to the city. This origin is also why military imagery features so prominently in performances of it as part of the band's stage show and in the official music video.
  • Rock Opera: Again, all five albums.
  • Saving Christmas: Though not as overt as most examples. The common thread of TSO's first three albums is an angel being sent from Heaven and tasked with finding one example of genuine goodness on Christmas Eve. Given that he comes to modern-day Earth (usually America), it takes him a long time to find something.
  • Serial Escalation: How much more extreme can the light shows get?
  • The Movie: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, which boasted performances by Michael Crawford and Jewel and starred Ossie Davis as the caretaker of an old movie theater.
  • The Scrooge: The older man in The Lost Christmas Eve, especially his song 'What is Christmas'.