The Hernando Symphony Orchestra is growing up.
While the ensemble for years has performed a medley from The Nutcracker for some of its holiday concerts, the score was always a simplified version, one often used by high school orchestras and bands.
It was "watered down," admitted Wayne Raymond, the orchestra's conductor, "because it's difficult."
This year, however, the orchestra will kick off its "Sounds of the Season" holiday concerts by taking on the much more complicated original score.
"They are handling it," Raymond said. "I love it. (The orchestra) just gets better and better."
Audiences will first get an opportunity to hear the holiday concert on Tuesday at Springstead Theater. And the tougher version of The Nutcracker is just a taste of several new pieces in store for orchestra fans.
The concert will include excerpts from Handel's Messiah, including the Hallelujah chorus and part of the Easter section.
"We will do the last number, Amen, which is a neat part that you don't hear too often," Raymond said.
Other selections include Tannenbaum Fantasia, Winterfest, Blessed are They, The Bells of Christmas and Christmas Finale.
Also performing will be the Nature Coast Handbells, an 11-member group founded and directed by Michele DiLuzio, the orchestra's lead trumpet player and assistant conductor. The group will present four numbers — two with the orchestra, The Glory of Christmas and Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival, and two solo performances, Believe from The Polar Express and Ukrainian Bell Carol Fantasy.
DiLuzio, who formerly served as the director for the Bells of St. Frances at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, formed the new community bell choir in August.
"We are the first and only community hand bell group (in Hernando County)," DiLuzio said. Not affiliated with any church, the group is "strictly community" she said.
For the concert, DiLuzio wrote the handbell portions of both Believe and A Christmas Festival.
Writing arrangements for hand bells is nothing new to DiLuzio. She is also a published composer of Cannon of Joy.
"That was exciting," she said, "to become a composer."