Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American progressive rock band founded in 1993 by producer, composer, and lyricistPaul O’Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producerRobert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. Since then, TSO sold more than 9 million concert tickets and over 8 million albums. The band’s musical style incorporates classical, orchestral, symphonic, and progressive elements into hard rock and heavy metal. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic,Beethoven’s Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve (the final installment of their Christmas trilogy), and their two-disc Night Castle. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include an orchestra, a light show, lasers, pyrotechnics, moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.
Both Billboard Magazine and Pollstar have ranked them as one of the top ten ticket-selling bands in the first decade of the new #2.“Those who are left wondering how this act managed to rake in more than $200 million dollars between 2000 and 2009 have obviously never seen TSO live. If you fall within that unfortunate group TSO is a tough act to categorize. They feature plenty of rock but there is also classical, progressive, storytelling, spectacular lighting and enough lasers to make Dr. Evil jealous.”
Origins and formation (1993–1996)
Paul O’Neill has managed and produced rock bands including Aerosmith, Humble Pie, AC/DC, Joan Jett, and Scorpions, later producing and co-writing albums by theprogressive metal band Savatage, where he began working with Jon Oliva (who had left Savatage to spend time with his family and take care of personal matters), Al Pitrelli and Robert Kinkel. O’Neill took his first steps into rock music in the 1970s when he started the progressive rock band Slowburn, for whom he was the lyricist and co-composer. What was intended to be the band’s debut album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix‘s Electric Lady Studios and engineered by Dave Wittman. Although Dave Wittman’s engineering was capturing the exact sound O’Neill was hearing in his head, O’Neill was having trouble with it because many of his melodies were between two to three octaves. Rather than releasing an album that he was not happy with, he shelved the project, but continued working in the industry at Contemporary Communications Corporation, the biggest arena rock management company at the time.
Over the years, O’Neill continued to work as a writer, producer, manager, and concert promoter. In 1993, he accepted Atlantic Records‘ offer to start his own band. He built the band on a foundation created by the marriage of classical and rock music and the artists he idolized (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Queen, Yes, The Who, and Pink Floyd, and hard rock bands such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin and the multiple lead vocalists of the R&B groups the Temptations and the Four Tops). He brought in Oliva, Kinkel, and Al Pitrelli to help start the project. O’Neil has stated, “My original concept was six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums.”
The band’s name has multiple connections to the group — the most important being that the band’s first album slated for release in 1994 was a rock opera about theBolshevik Revolution entitled “Romanov: When Kings Must Whisper.” The Trans-Siberian Railway was built during the Romanov imperial rule and was used by many of the characters in the rock opera, from Leon Trotsky to Lavrentiy Beria. However, the album was put on hold. Eventually, the group turned in the first installment of the Christmas Trilogy as their debut album; as a result, their label kept pressuring O’Neill for the name of the band so they could go to print. In an interview he said,
In the 1980s I was fortunate enough to have visited Russia. If anyone has ever seen Siberia, it is incredibly beautiful but incredibly harsh and unforgiving as well. The one thing that everyone who lives there has in common that runs across it in relative safety is the Trans-Siberian Railway. Life, too, can be incredibly beautiful but also incredibly harsh and unforgiving, and the one thing that we all have in common that runs across it in relative safety is music. It was a little bit overly philosophical, but it sounded different, and I like the initials, TSO.
While Paul O’Neill and Jon Oliva were preparing for the launching of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, their plans were brought to a halt with the death of Jon’s younger brother, Criss Oliva, killed by a drunk driver. Realizing that, without a new Savatage album delivered quickly, Warner Brothers would likely drop the group and their catalog, they quickly delivered two new albums for Savatage. Not until they were sure that the Savatage situation was stabilized were they able to resume work on TSO. With Savatage stabilized Paul O’Neill decided it was time to launch Trans-Siberian Orchestra, however the William Morris Agency had heard the rough demos and convinced Paul that it was too good to be a rock album. Owen Laster, Paul O’Neill’s agent, not only got him thirty million for production cost but also helped him to obtain 100% total creative control over everything produced by him.  
Christmas Eve and Other Stories and The Christmas Attic (1996–1998)
Their debut album, the first installment of the intended Christmas Trilogy, was a rock opera called Christmas Eve and Other Stories, and was released in 1996. It remains among their best-selling albums. It contains the song “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” which also appeared on Savatage’s rock opera, Dead Winter Dead, a story about the Bosnian War. Their 1998 release The Christmas Attic, the sequel to Christmas Eve and Other Stories followed a similar format. This album produced the hit “Christmas Canon,” a take on Johann Pachelbel‘s Canon in D major with lyrics and new melodies added.
Beethoven’s Last Night (1999–2000, 2012)
“Beethoven’s Last Night,” was completed prior to “Christmas Attic” but not turned in to Atlantic Records until 1999 for release in 2000. Also in 1998, at the request of Scott Shannon of WPLJ they performed live for the first time in a charity concert for Blythsdale Children’s Hospital. In 1999, at the urging of Bill Louis, a DJ for WNCX in Cleveland, they did their first tour, during which they debuted sections of Beethoven’s Last Night, a third rock opera, which was released in the spring of 2000. They performed the album in its entirety for the first time during the spring tour of 2010. In October 2011, Beethoven’s Last Night was released in Europe to coincide with their European tour with new cover art by Greg Hildebrandt and the missing pages of poetry from the original release.
On March 13, 2012, Beethoven’s Last Night: The Complete Narrated Version was released by Rhino Records and available exclusively at WalMart stores, TSO’s own webstore, and TSO concerts. This two-disc deluxe edition includes all of the music from the original release and, for the first time, the narration featured during live performances of the album. It comes packaged with a booklet filled with Greg Hildebrandt‘s illustrations of the story, plus the full lyrics and narration. The narration is performed by Bryan Hicks, who has been handling the live narration on the tours for this album. Creator Paul O’Neill explains, “This is how I have always envisioned the story being experienced. Where the listener can relax, close their eyes and within minutes be wandering the streets of 1800’s Vienna with Beethoven on the last great adventure of his life.”  The digital download of this release became available everywhere after the first thirty days of release.
“The Lost Christmas Eve” (2004)
When ever the band was off the road they returned to the studio and eventually completed The Lost Christmas Eve, the final installment of Christmas Trilogy, in 2004. The story is about a business man whose wife died during childbirth. When he is told that his new born son was cut off from oxygen for so long that he has suffered serious irreversible brain damage he abandons him to the state. The next year they combined all three Christmas albums and released them in a box set titled The Christmas Trilogy, which also contained a DVD of their 1999 TV special The Ghosts of Christmas Eve (Each of the albums still continue to be available individually.)
Night Castle (2009–2011)
After another few years of touring, Night Castle, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s latest album, was released on October 27, 2009 debuting at #5 on the Billboard Charts and was certified gold in eight weeks. The two-disc set includes a version of “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, which was previewed live by the band during their 2004–2008 tours. An MP3 version of the album released through Amazon.com contains an additional track entitled “The Flight of Cassandra.”
The first half is a rock opera about a seven-year-old child on a beach who meets a stranger from New York City who tells her a story that takes her all around the world a through time where she encounters various characters, many of which are based on historical individuals such as Desiderius Erasmus. The second half pays homage to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s influences. It also contains new versions of several Savatage songs as well as “Nut Rocker,” originally by B. Bumble and the Stingers and previously made famous by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, featuring Greg Lake on bass guitar.
In February 2011, Night Castle was released in Germany with two live bonus tracks (“Requiem” and “Toccata-Carpimus Noctem”) added. Both live tracks were recorded on the 2010 spring tour at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie, formerly Nokia Theater, in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Romanov: When Kings Must Whisper
A project written primarily by Paul O’Neill, Jon Oliva and Bob Kinkel based on the 1914 Russian Revolution. This album began it’s life in 1993 and is being worked on currently, but no release date has been scheduled. Originally intended as the first TSO release, it was sold to Pace Theatrical Group for development as a Broadway Musical.  Pace paid for the rights to the story for six years before rights reverted back to O’Neill and Oliva. According to Oliva, “It’s a very dark, dark album, but there’s some good music and a good story on it.” 
“Who I Am” is the first song released from this project. It was released as a digital download only to fans who purchased tickets through the band’s ticket pre-sale and performed on the 2011 Fall/Winter tour.
Gutter Ballet And The New York City Blues Express
A project currently in development, though no release date has been set. According to Oliva, “It’s the Savatage album Streets:_A_Rock_Opera story with some songs from Gutter Ballet, a couple songs taken out from “Streets” replaced with ones from “Gutter”, and a couple from Handful of Rain. And the stories are altered.”
Beginning with the 2010 Fall/Winter tour, TSO has been featuring songs from this project in each of their tours. A medley included “Sleep”, originally a song from Savatagefrom their 1993 Edge of Thorns release, and a new song entitled “Child Unseen”. Also often included in the medley is a portion of The Beatles‘ “Help”. The 2011 Fall/Winter Tour featured Kayla Reeves and Dari Mahnic performing another new song from this forthcoming “Gutter Ballet” project entitled “Someday”. During the 2012 Spring tour, vocalist Rob Evan performed “A Little Too Far” from the Streets:_A_Rock_Opera album during radio appearances.
On November 27, 2010, as a special thank you to the fans, Trans-Siberian Orchestra teamed up with Amazon.com to give away a free MP3 download of “Dream Child 2010”. This is a re-recording of “Dream Child” from the 1998 album “The Christmas Attic“, this time with Tim Hockenberry on lead vocals.
On November 11, 2011 they released a new song from the forthcoming Romanov: What Kings Must Whisper album entitled “Who I Am”. This was done as a digital download only to fans who purchased tickets through the band’s ticket pre-sale.
Musical style and direction
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is known for their incorporation of classical, orchestral, symphonic, and progressive elements into rock and heavy metal music. They are listed under many genres, but mostly symphonic rock, progressive rock, neo-classical metal, and classical music. Three of their albums – Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996), The Christmas Attic (1998), The Lost Christmas Eve (2004) – are based around Christmas themes. These rock operas, collectively known as the “Christmas trilogy,” remain their best-selling and most famous works.
Both in the recording studio and live, Trans-Siberian Orchestra uses a full orchestra, choirs, and a constantly growing and changing group of singers and musicians.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra first toured in 1999, performing a handful of concerts in Upper Darby, New York City, Cleveland,Chicago, and Detroit. The next year, the two touring groups were formed, allowing the band to cover more ground in the short time frame Paul O’Neill allows the Holiday Rock Operas to be performed (November & December). Trans-Siberian Orchestra has maintained the divide the band in half format for touring during those months ever since but performs as a single band during the rest of the year.
The two touring groups are informally known as TSO East and TSO West, although these descriptions are not entirely literal. Before 2008, for example, TSO West historically played in Atlanta and Florida. Both groups have appeared in Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Indianapolis.
Shows on the orchestra’s fall/winter tour are divided into two acts. The first act is a narrated performance of most of the songs from Christmas Eve and Other Stories. In the second act, the band performs a mix of songs from their other albums. The first tour to promote Beethoven’s Last Night in the spring of 2010, 2011 & 2012 used a similar format, with a complete performance of Beethoven’s Last Night followed by several songs from Night Castle, and on the 2012 tour, the band also included two Savatage songs, both from the album Handful of Rain, the title track and “Chance”, which concludes the show.
In March 2011 the band had its first tour in Europe. It included 11 gigs in Switzerland, Austria, Germany (six venues), the Netherlands, Belgium and England. All instrumental Savatage members of the recent line-up except Jon Oliva were featured in the show, which has also led to the opportunity, to put Chance as a final song.
In 2009, Billboard ranked TSO as one of the Top 25 Touring Artists of the past decade. Live shows are known for their extensive use of pyrotechnics, lasers, and lights synchronized with the performance, all of which takes 15 hours to set up. They are very well known for these concerts, which are critically acclaimed.
List of performers (past and present)
Performances may also include guest vocalists.
- Paul O’Neill – composer, lyricist, producer
- Robert Kinkel – co-producer, keyboards, composer (touring 1999-2009)
- Jon Oliva – composer, vocals
- Al Pitrelli – guitars, music director, composer (touring 1999,2001-present)
- Ashley Adamek (touring 2011)
- Angelica Allen (touring 2011)
- Jody Ashworth (studio)
- April Berry (touring 2009-present)
- Phillip Brandon (touring, narrator 2010–present)
- John Brink (touring 2010-2011)
- Steve Broderick (studio, touring 2000-2009)
- Tim Cain (touring, narrator 2000-2002)
- Jennifer Cella (studio, touring 2001-2007)
- Joe Cerisano(studio, touring 2000-2003)
- Tru Collins (touring 2010)
- Rob Evan (studio, touring 2001, 2003, 2009–present)
- Tommy Farese (studio, touring 1999-2010)
- Dina Fanai (studio, touring 2002,2003)
- Jamey Garner (touring 2008)
- Anthony Gaynor (touring, narrator, backing vocals 1999–2009)
- Jill Gioia (touring 2003–2005)
- Alexa Goddard (studio, touring 2007-2008)
- Kristin Lewis Gorman (touring 2001-2010)
- Heather Gunn (touring 2005-2007)
- Autumn Guzzardi (touring 2010)
- Erin Henry (touring 2006-2010)
- Steena Hernandez (touring 2006-2008)
- Bryan Hicks (studio, touring, narrator 2003–present)
- Katie Hicks (touring 2009-2010)
- Tim Hockenberry (studio, touring 2008-2010)
- Erika Jerry (touring 2010-present)
- Jodi Katz (touring 2009–present)
- Kelly Keeling (touring 2006–2007)
- Danielle Landherr (studio, touring 2003-2010)
- Michael Lanning (touring 2000-2005)
- Guy LeMonnier (studio, touring 1999, 2002–2006)
- James Lewis (studio, touring 2004–present)
- Tany Ling (touring 2004-2006)
- Guy Lockard (touring – portion of 2010)
- Chloe Lowery (touring 2010-present)
- Dari Mahnic (touring 2011)
- Maxx “The Wild Child” Mann (studio, touring 2002,2006)
- Sanya Mateyas (touring 2002-2003)
- Abby Lynn Mulay (touring 2009)
- Ronny Munroe (touring 2011-present)
- Georgia Napolitano (touring 2010-present)
- Daryl Pediford (studio, touring 1999-2003) died
- Jay Pierce (studio, touring 2004-present)
- Natalya Piette (touring 2010-present)
- Chris Pinnella (touring 2012)
- Valentina Porter (studio, touring 2008-2009)
- Sophia Ramos (touring 2001)
- Kayla Reeves (touring 2010-present)
- Marisa Rhodes (touring 2007)
- Andrew Ross (touring 2007–present)
- Patti Russo (studio)
- Scout (Scout Ford) (studio, touring 2007–2009)
- Bart Shatto (touring 2002–present)
- Peter Shaw (touring 2005-2007)
- Allie Sheridan (also appeared in The Ghosts of Christmas Eve as “The Runaway”)
- Rebecca Simon (touring 2000)
- Jeff Scott Soto (studio; touring, 2008–present)
- Kay Story (touring 2000)
- Becca Tobin (touring 2011)
- Adrienne Warren (touring, 2008)
- Rod Weber (touring 2000-2002)
- Jason Wooten (touring 2010)
- Zachary Stevens (studio)
- Tristan Avakian (studio, touring 2003)
- Chris Caffery (studio, touring 1999–present)
- Angus Clark (studio, touring 2001–present)
- George Cintron (touring 2000)
- Joel Hoekstra (touring 2010-present)
- Damon La Scott (touring 2000)
- Al Pitrelli (studio, touring 1999, 2001–present)
- Alex Skolnick (touring 2000–2002, 2004–2009)
- Chris Altenhoff (touring 2007-2009)
- Malcolm Gold (touring 2001)
- Johnny Lee Middleton (studio, touring 1999–2000, 2002–present)
- David Z (touring 2000-2006, 2010-present)
- Steve Murphy (touring 2000-2001)
- John O. Reilly (studio, touring 2002–present)
- Jeff Plate (studio, touring 1999–present)
- Luci Butler (studio, touring 2008–present)
- Carmine Giglio (touring 2002–2005)
- Mee Eun Kim (touring 2000-2002, 2004-2007, 2011-present)
- Bob Kinkel (studio, touring 1999-2009)
- Vitalij Kuprij (touring 2009–present)
- Allison Lovejoy (touring 2003)
- Jane Mangini (studio, touring 2001–present)
- Paul Morris (musician) (touring 2000)
- Jon Oliva (studio)
- Derek Wieland (music director, studio, touring 2006–present)
- Sarah Charness (touring 2010)
- Roddy Chong (touring 2008–present)
- Ted Falcon (touring 2002)
- Asha Mevlana (touring 2011)
- Caitlin Moe (touring 2009-2010)
- Lucia Micarelli (touring 2003)
- Anna Phoebe (studio, touring 2004–2009)
- Valerie Vigoda (touring 2000,2001)
- Mark Wood (studio, touring 1999–2008)
- Allison Zlotow (touring 2008)