IN my childhood, the word “bucket” was used where you would now expect to hear “bin” in a refuse disposal context. You put the bucket out on bucket day in north Edinburgh in the 1960s. This may be why I have never been very keen on the current usage “bucket list”, meaning experiences to be ticked off before the Grim Reaper heaves into view with his scythe.

If pressed, however, I would confess to an ambition to attend the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert in the Musikverein, although I should immediately acknowledge that the chances of that coming to pass are extraordinarily slim. Acquaintance with a choreographer of the filmed dance sequences that have enlivened the television coverage of the event in recent years, Ashley Page, formerly artistic director of Scottish Ballet, brought the likelihood of an invitation no nearer, so I should resign myself to enjoying the broadcast of Monday’s concert as I have habitually done most years. I even have a couple of the recordings that have been rush-released impressively soon after the concert, although it will not surprise you to learn that, like the collection of Christmas albums, they do not visit the disc-player for much of the year.

The year’s invited conductor – it is Riccardo Muti again to kick off 2018 after young Gustavo Dudamel made his debut at the start of this year – always rings the changes in the programme, and often makes some inspiring verbal contribution, but the popularity of the concert rests squarely on its formula: chiefly the music of the Strauss family and never omitting the Blue Danube and the rhythmic clapping opportunity that is the Radetzky March. In this it sits alongside the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah across the country at New Year, and the Last Night of the Proms at the end of the summer in London’s Royal Albert Hall. Audiences can be adventurous, but they also like to know that they are going to get – and the recent trend for rock bands to reassemble to revisit the conspicuous success of their back catalogue decades on is another manifestation of that.

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The RSNO’s Christmas Concert, conducted by Christopher Bell and always including a narrated screening of the animated film of Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman with Howard Blake’s score played live, is a more recent tradition, but its popularity grows year on year, with more performances in more Scottish venues. It is tempting to describe what Bell has made of these concerts as a sort of post-modern subversive take on the stuffy politeness of New Year in Vienna. Yes, he sticks to the successful formula, but the atmosphere could hardly be further from the great and the good (and fortunate enough to be invited) sitting in their finery clapping along for the designated number of bars at the decreed volume.

Singing along is the least of it. Failure to stand in your place and attempt the choreography as instructed runs the risk of attracting ridicule from the podium. Bell treads a fine line between encouraging the audience and antagonising a couple of thousand people, but he never quite strays to the wrong side of it. That is essentially because, although he gives the music the utmost respect, he does not take himself too seriously. Katherine Jenkins also included Blake’s Walking In The Air in her Christmas concert programme, but she only just outdid Bell in costume changes, and you would have to say that his outfits were braver. And while the RSNO enjoys a very fruitful relationship with Classic FM, I fancy that the conductor’s hugely popular live presentation style are a touch too bold for the radio.

Bell’s increasing commitments on the other side of the Atlantic, firstly at Grant Park in Chicago and now with the Washington Chorus, means we will be seeing a deal less of him in Scotland, where the Irishman has built his career. That is a major loss and it will be interesting to see how organisations try to replace him, but I am almost equally intrigued to learn how Washington copes when the Bell revolution hits the US capital for what Americans call “the holidays” at Christmas time next year.