By Tommy Mann Jr.

For the better part of two decades one band has become synonymous with Christmas.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the holiday season go hand-in-hand for many people, and the band is making its annual trek to Houston this week with “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” tour. Performances are at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 23, inside the Toyota Center, and tickets are $47.50-$76.50 are on sale at online at www.houstontoyotacenter.com for all ages.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, also commonly referred to as TSO, formed and released its debut album in 1996 and conducted its first official tour in 1999 just in time for Christmas. The group has become one of the most popular touring attractions in the world and performs to thousands of people annually across the United States.

According to Al Pitrelli, music leader and guitarist for TSO, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” tour was such a huge success in 2015 that the band decided to bring it back again in 2016.

“A lot of people don’t know that ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’ was basically a film we shot back in 1999 for PBS,” Pitrelli said in a telephone interview. “Paul (O’Neill – founder of TSO) basically took everyones favorite songs and wrote a story about a little runaway girl who hides out in an abandoned theatre on Christmas Eve. The story is the centerpiece of the show and it really hits home with people because everyone misses somebody at Christmas.”

Pitrelli said fans who saw the 2015 tour will not see the same show this year as the group has intentionally made changes to this year’s production.

“The front of the show is different and the back portion of the show is different than last year,” he continued. “The song arrangement and production is somewhat different and the show is constantly evolving.”

Although Pitrelli has been part of the TSO family since it hit the road in 1999, he and his fellow tourmates in TSO are still humbled to have become part of so many peoples lives and part of the yearly Christmas tradition.

“We never could have seen that happening, if you had asked me this when it began,” Pitrelli added. “We’ve all grown up together and we see so many people we know now every year. And these people are now bringing their other family members, like uncle or aunt, or even their new baby, to our shows. This has taken on its own life and it’s amazing so many people now count us as part of their holiday tradition.”

Pitrelli said this year’s tour travels from city to city in 18 tractor-trailer trucks and, despite the band often performing two shows per day in many cities, it is the TSO road crew who are the hardest working members of the tour.

“We have a lot of stuff we move from one city to the next and it is really hard for the guys on the crew, but they get it done every day and we couldn’t do it without them,” Pitrelli said. “We love being able to do two shows in a day. We’ve worked hard to get to this point. It might get physically and mentally tiring at times, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Visit www.trans-siberian.com for more information on the band and its current tour.