By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When Trans-Siberian Orchestra mastermind Paul O’Neill died unexpectedly at age 61, his musical partner, Al Pitrelli, was understandably heartbroken.
But Pitrelli, O’Neill’s writing partner Jon Oliva, and the late producer’s family are steadfast about carrying on TSO’s legacy.
“For Paul and his wife, Desiree, this was their child that they gave birth to years and years and years ago,” says Pitrelli, who adds the couple has a daughter, Ireland, as well.
“It’s so nice to know that the family is going to carry on the legacy. I’m just glad to be part of it. Whatever they want to do, we’re good with.”
This holiday season, TSO is continuing its The Ghosts of Christmas Eve tour, which includes 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows on Sunday, December 3, at Gila River Arena in Glendale. The show will also be without bassist David Zablidowsky, who, as David Z, was the bassist for TSO and Adrenaline Mob. He was killed during a vehicle crash earlier this year while touring with Adrenaline Mob.
The 2017 Tour is an updated presentation of TSO’s The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More.
“We always try to change the front of the show and the back of the show,” he says. “The rock opera portion will remain the same. The look of the stage will be different – the lighting, the pyro, the lasers, the moving trusses, the video content.
“We’ll always try to upgrade that from year to year because we never really want to repeat ourselves. We do want to have the familiarity of the rock opera that the people have really fallen in love with.”
In addition, the show will introduce people to material TSO hasn’t performed in a few years during the hour it has to explore the catalog.
Pitrelli adds the performance will not specifically address O’Neill’s death. Instead, the tour as a whole is a tribute to him.
“From my heart, right now, I think that every note that I play on the guitar, every note that’s sung by the singers, how it’s presented by the production staff, by his family, I think that everybody knows that everything is a tribute to Paul.”
Pitrelli compares the loss to his first Thanksgiving dinner after his father died. It felt like someone or something was missing, but the family carried on and celebrated his dad’s life. Similarly, he will honor O’Neill’s career.
“Listen, life throws you curve balls sometimes,” he says. “Bad things happen. In one phone call, everything can get turned upside down.
“I won’t insult the situation by using typical clichés and I don’t think anybody wants to hear that. If anybody’s ever gone through any kind of loss, it’s kind of answering the question on your own. There will be an empty hole in everybody’s heart for the rest of our lives, but life will continue to go on. I’ll miss him forever, as everybody who knew him and loved him will.”