By Michael Cerio

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Trans-Siberian Orchestra holiday tradition continues this year, with two shows in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center on December 17.

While the sounds and spectacle will be the same, this season will seem a little different for the members of TSO. This year the rock opera performers suffered the loss of their bassist Dave Z and their creator and composer Paul O’Neill.

“Both losses are extremely tragic,” explains drummer Jeff Plate from his home in upstate New York. “It was something to be on the other end of the phone when I got the news about Paul, because your life literally kind of stops for a second.

“Of course there was a lot of speculation about what was gonna happen and what would be the course of Trans-Siberian Orchestra but, first and foremost our hearts go out to his wife and his daughter because they’ve been along for this ride since the very beginning.”

That ride has been a magical one that began in 1999, playing to millions of fans from metalheads to mesmerized children. Their twenty trucks of lights of music has become an important part of the holiday season for people all around the world, but with the loss of their leader it seemed in jeopardy.

“It was in our best interest and in Paul’s wishes to carry on the tour and keep Trans-Siberian Orchestra alive” says Plate. “This is something that Paul had created with the idea of outliving us all. He honestly talked to us about this almost every year, before every tour, just how important these tours were and how much it meant to him and the people that were involved and especially the audience. He wanted this to carry on beyond all of us, but to think that we would be doing it this year without Paul was certainly not in our minds.”

The idea of Trans-Siberian Orchestra sprung from the progressive production mind of O’Neill, first conceptualized in the metal band Savatage and eventually becoming it’s own immersive experience with TSO. They took the stage for the first time at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia in 1999 according to Jeff Plate.

“I remember standing on the side of the stage with my bass player Johnny Middleton, and here we are, long-haired metal guys dressed in tuxedos looking at each other going, wow, what did we get ourselves into?”

The stage is bigger and the outfits are better for Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s return to Philadelphia this December 17 at the Wells Fargo Center. Tickets are now available.