North Shore Philharmonic Makes a Musical Return to Revere

Hundreds of concert-goers poured into St. Anthony’s Church Sunday for the annual Robert A. Marra Memorial “Sounds of Christmas” Concert, bringing with them two truckloads of food for the associated Food Drive and resuming a 45-year tradition that was wiped out last year because of the pandemic.

The North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra and featured soprano Jean Danton kindled everyone’s holiday spirits with a wonderful performance of classical holiday-themed music, topped off by the popular “Sing-along” of well-known Christmas carols. 

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo delivered a stirring “Holiday Message” in which he commented about the gratitude and optimism reflected in the community as it emerges from the pandemic.  His remarks expressed sentiments of those in need, and those who have helped out, and those who have perished during the excruciating months since the pandemic took hold in March of 2020.

Speaking “…in the voice of those who are gone…” the Mayor said:  “Our optimism is that those we have left behind will fathom deep in their souls that life is too fragile, too tender, too valuable to squander with anger, envy, or hostility.  Our optimism is that those we have left behind will look around them, grateful for their blessings, their health, and their chance to revel in the spirit and delights of the holiday season, now, every day hereafter.”

Twenty-six members of the Revere High football team, who completed a successful 8-2 season on Thanksgiving Day, pitched in to help collect, box, load, and deliver some two tons of food to the Revere Food Pantry.  Concert sponsor and co-chair Dom Bocchino, president of Bocchino Insurance Agency, remarked that the player’s spirit and energy was a welcome sight both for concert goers and volunteers who were relieved of the task of carrying boxes upon boxes of food from the church into a truck.  “The players were fantastic,” said Bocchino.  “They were walking out into the parking lot as people arrived and carrying the bags of food for them.  They were filling boxes, loading the truck…they were just fantastic.  They did in an hour what would have taken us two days!”

The concert audience, screened upon entrance for vaccination proof or negative covid test and required to wear masks thoughout, was nonetheless enthusiastic and rose in standing ovation as Ms. Danton and the Orchestra, under conductor Robert Lehmann, played a rousing “Let There Be Peace On Earth” in the concert’s traditional conclusion.

“The Orchestra and I enjoy this concert immensely,” said Lehmann.  “We are so thrilled to be back in Revere, where we always enjoy such a welcoming and excited reception.”

Concert co-chair Robert Marra Jr. expressed gratitude to the concert sponsors Bocchino Insurance, Arbella Insurance Foundation, Comcast, RCN, Global Partners, and Action Emergency Services, emphasizing the role of Action’s Mike Zaccaria.  “Not only did Michael contribute as a sponsor, but he provided the trucks to transport the food from the Church to the Food Pantry.  That kind of community engagement is what makes this so special in so many ways.”

“So many are involved in making this concert happen,” he said, citing members of the St. Anthony’s Church Confirmation Class who helped convert the Church’s altar area to a concert stage; members of the St. Anthony’s Holy Name Society who helped collect food, and volunteers who had the unenjoyable task of checking vaccination cards and covid test results.  “I think the overall circumstances could have been an obstacle, but I think everyone cooperated and were determined to have a great time.  After missing out last year, this was special.”

The Sounds of Christmas concert began in 1976 when the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra played a holiday concert at Revere High to mark the end of the nation’s Bicentennial year.   In 1977 the concert was relocated to St. Anthony’s, where it has been performed annually except for a three-year gap in the late 1980s and in 2020.  The associated Food Drive began in 1991.  In 2002, the concert was renamed in memory of violinist Robert A. Marra, lifelong Revere resident, Revere High teacher, and a founding member of the Orchestra who died in 2002.  “It occurred to me that this year’s concert marked 20 years since Dad played his last ‘Sounds of Christmas’ concert, and that made it all the more meaningful,” said Marra.

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