A Christmas Fantasy and Other Favorites begins and ends with musical versions of The Night Before Christmas. The opening movement of the Fantasy Concerto On Christmas Themes for Piano and Orchestra is a musical setting of Clement Clark Moores poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as The Night Before Christmas. The music begins with the quiet house where not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. The piano enters with the first variation of the Christmas carols God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night, and builds to the arrival of St. Nicholas Up On the Housetop. The second movement is Silent Night in the Christmas wrappings of a chorale prelude, followed by humorous variations on Leroy Andersons Sleigh Ride. Commissioned by Seth Montfort for the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, Montfort asked McFarland to compose a Christmas piece with an American sound-the listener will hear echoes of American composers: Gottschalk, Gershwin and Anderson. Ron McFarland, a California native, has known the glare of the limelight since his teens. He has been praised by major critics both as composer and pianist with comments like, The music reveals much of the man…romantic and passionate, compelling lyricism, fresh and original, and dreamy obstinate and emotional, ever direct and accessible. Renowned Bay Area music critic Stephanie von Buchau wrote, McFarlands music has a fresh musical viewpoint. One is not assaulted by bizarre concepts or noises that pass for originality… [using] traditional forms and melodic material, he aims for individual expression of emotion, and that alone is enough to make him a rare duck in contemporary music. At the age of sixteen he became a protg of the legendary Ethel Leginska, and after three years of study he made a successful Los Angeles piano debut with symphony conducted by Leginska. The L.A. Examiner wrote, his tone quality, his emotional directness and his amazing fluent fingers added to a musical grasp of light and shade, earned this teen-ager repeated calls from his listeners. He was then invited to live in an apartment adjacent to Leginskas Hollywood studio. It was during the next three years while living at her studio that he met and performed for numerous internationally known artists, composers and conductors, who included: Artur Schnabel, Benjamin Britten and Bruno Walter. While still in his teens, he studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, one of the greatest masters of 20th Century composition and later continued his studies in orchestration with David Sheinfeld in San Francisco. After playing several solo piano pieces including two from his own unfinished Piano Suite, it was Bruno Walter who said, Young man, your are a fine pianist, and I certainly dont mean you should give it up, but this is the real you – a composer. Perhaps a composer-pianist, but a composer first! Leginska and Schoenberg were the two most important teachers in his young life. He remembers Leginska as a very demanding taskmaster who stipulated that her students enter as many competitions as possible, because she believed the experience was tantamount to launching concert careers – as finalist in the Hollywood Bowl competition he performed with the KFI-Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Sample. After six years of study with Leginska, he left the Hollywood world of recitals and competitions and traveled to New Orleans, where he began a career as an artist.