Review: Philharmonic’s Home for the HolidaysFiled under: Christmas music, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Reviews, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: A Holly & Jolly Sing-Along, Alluring Handbell Choir, Bill Meck, Candy Cane Concert, Collage, Diana Evans Dancers, George Frideric Handel, Home for the Holidays, Kentucky Christmas Chorus, Lexington Catholic High School Choir, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Messiah, Randol Bass, Rene Clausen, s Hershy Kay, School for Creative and Performing Arts, Scott County High School, Twas the Night Before Christmas, University of Kentucky choirs, Variations on Joy to the World
Friday night the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra launched its new Christmastime show, Home for the Holidays, which falls somewhere between the University of Kentucky Choirs’ holiday Collage, the Kentucky Christmas Chorus and the Philharmonic’s own Candy Cane Concert.
Where exactly it falls was still something of an open question after Friday’s performance.
It was a concert that certainly had its moments featuring some cool arrangements of familiar songs and local school and community groups well worth hearing. What the night lacked was cohesion, a real sense of purpose beyond throwing a lot at the stage for a holiday extravaganza.
Candy Cane, part of the Phil’s family series, is where the orchestra used to put on its holiday extravaganza. And there were actually several elements in Friday night’s event that will be included in Sunday afternoon’s Candy Cane performance – including several appearances by Diana Evans Dancers, WLEX meteorologist Bill Meck reading Twas the Night Before Christmas and the concert-closing A Holly & Jolly Sing-Along.
Home for the Holidays supplemented that material with some highlights like great arrangements of Once in Royal David’s City and I Saw Three Ships featuring the Alluring Handbell Choir and a René Clausen choral version of O Holy Night that the Lexington Singers and Philharmonic navigated with beautiful subtlety – something of a refreshing change from the soloist spectacular, which is how the number is often presented.
Less successful uses of the singers were in a few humorous numbers: You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch and PDQ Bach’s Good King Kong Looked Out. They were delivered with enthusiasm, but quite hard to understand, so the laughs were mostly lost. A lot of the fun of the evening came from Rockettes-like performances from the Diana Evans Dancers, including a high-kicking line on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The baffling thing about the dancers’ performance was the lighting. For much of their time on stage, Evans’ crew was stuck in shadows at the front of the stage. It was a shame we had to strain our eyes a bit to see their bright performances.
Other guests acquitting themselves nicely were the Lexington Catholic High School Choir, vocal majors from the School for Creative and Performing Arts and brass musicians from Scott County High School. The Lexington Catholic singers, in particular, presented a very mature performance.
After a weekend of small, baroque renditions of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, the Philharmonic itself delivered some big, cinematic performances through the evening, including Randol Bass’ setting of Twas the Night Before Christmas.
So there was a bunch to like Friday night. But it just never came together.
There were moments it seemed the idea was taking a fresh look at familiar songs such as Hershy Kay’s Variations on Joy to the World, times it seemed the idea was showcasing local talent like Alluring, times it seemed like a community sing along and times it just seemed like a glorified Candy Cane Concert.
Since coming to Lexington in 2009, Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell has made a lot of changes with the orchestra. Most, like the downsized Messiah last weekend, have come across as a well-articulated artistic vision.
If there are future editions of Home for the Holidays, maybe they will gain focus and cohesion and become a compelling articulation of the orchestra’s take on the holiday spectacular. But this was the rare time in Terrell’s tenure a show has just felt like change for change’s sake.
3 Responses to “Review: Philharmonic’s Home for the Holidays”
Annaliese Bratcher December 12th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
It’s difficult to believe I was at the same concert. What about the magnificence of Daniel Mason, David Elliot, Mick Sehman, Joanne Filkins and a newly energized bass section of the Philharmonic? The melody of Hannukah songs, especially, but really everything the Philharmonic played was outstanding. The Lexington Singers were daring with new material and brought it off beautifully. Scott Terrell’s conducting definitely brought out the very best from Alluring. But also, he skillfully wove the delicate voices of the 10-year to 14-year SCAPA Chorus singers into a wonderful vocal triumph. Their solo work and also their voices blended with the High School singers and Lexington Singers was one of the many high points of the show. The Scott County Brass musicians played well above their young ages. Also, those tiny Diana Evans dancers were a visual high point. When I think of Home for the Holidays. I think of the youngest to the oldest. This was a skillful mix of ages and approaches that I will remember as a great performance.
Hum…..and yet the paying audience enjoyed it all! The lighting for the dancers emphasised the icy dreamlike state of “The Polar Express”. I’m not sure what you can do to help the reviewer understand the words, given the inadequacies of the hall, but the laughter of the audience could clearly be heard during “Old King Kong”
Oh well, you can’t please everybody, but at least the Philharmonic and Maestro Terrell pleased the majority Saturday night.
I pretty much agree. There were several impressive pieces presented–O Holy Night was sublime–but there wasn’t really any flow to it. It was like the Philharmonic made a list of everything Christmas-related and threw it together. It wasn’t that I didn’t like any of the music, (I didn’t have any trouble understanding the PDQ Bach and thought it was kinda funny), but nothing really felt like it fit. Still, my highlight was I Saw Three Ships.
Also, I don’t know if it was just me, but it didn’t really look most of the performers on stage were enjoying themselves. I don’t know if it was the rehearsal atmosphere or the pressure of a large show, but it felt a lot like a performance. Just a performance. I also thought he talked too much between numbers; and he really should think about his tone. He seems very condescending and sometimes he makes talking to the audience seem an obligation that’s beneath him. If the show would have had some flow to it he wouldn’t have had to talk so much and explain what was coming next.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich