TSO has gone on to make six records, including five studio albums that each have gone at least gold. While only three of those six CDs have had a Christmas theme, it’s holiday-inspired music that has been the band’s forte to date. The band tours annually around the holidays, with more than 5 million people attending the $20 million production during its 2008 run.
“Our music comes from everywhere. Christmas just sort of came upon us,” Kinkel said. “It’s great, though. There are so many people who have made it their holiday tradition.”
TSO has grown so large that it had to split into two groups to hit every desirous market in the United States. Kinkel performs with and serves as musical director of the East Coast group, with fellow Savatage expatriate Jeff Plate serving as the drummer.
“It’s blossomed into this huge Christmas and holiday touring event,” said Plate, who’s served as TSO’s recording drummer since the band’s inception. “We have an incredible group of musicians on stage.”
While “Night Castle” strays from the Christmas theme, its operatic and classical tendencies have struck a chord with fans, who also made it the most-downloaded album upon its release. Kinkel is pleased with the 26 songs on the two-disc set — some of which are reworked Savatage tracks — but looks to continue striving for improvement in the future.
“I love all the stuff we’ve done,” he said. “Every song you write is like a child. You put them out into the world and try to give them what they need to support them.”
TSO has also served to support an interest in classical music — at least beyond what one hears in movies and old Looney Tunes cartoons. That, Kinkel said, is just as rewarding.
“Everyone knows the top 200 classical times, but then (with TSO) you find out what the music is and the harmony is and how it all fits together,” he said. “There’s so many people who say, ‘You know, I never really listened to classical music before, but I’ve started listening to Beethoven because of your music.’