Boston Holiday Pops Festival Chorus

by Michele Markarian  

 Boston Holiday Pops – Boston Pops Orchestra, with Tanglewood
Festival Chorus at Symphony Hall, Boston through December 24th.

The worst humbug in the world would have a hard time not feeling the holiday spirit at this lively and sentimental-without-being mawkish concert.  From the majestic opening of “Joy to the World” to the audience sing-along at the end of the program, Holiday Pops delivers the holiday spirit.

The first portion of the program covers well-known favorites – a rousing rendition of “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by the marvelous all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus, a solemn then energetic version of “Candle Lighting Blessings – Drey Dreydeleh”, “Dance of the Tumblers” from The Snow Maiden, and “A Christmas Scherzo” where the stage was bathed in a yellow glow –and culminates in a heartfelt presentation of “The Polar Express”.   Narrated by Boston favorite Will LeBow, with author/illustratorChris Van Allsburg’s original drawings projected on a screen, the reading was interspersed with Alan Silvestri’s and Glen Ballard’s score for the film.  “The Polar Express” brought home the magic and wonder of Christmas through a child’s eyes, and was the perfect way to close the first act.

Act Two opened with an ingenious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the surprise weaving of other pieces of music in and out of the original song must be heard to be believed.  Let’s just say that Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Queen and Rodgers and Hammerstein have never had more in common.  The opening notes of “Kije Takes a Ride” will bring a smile to classical fans as well as anyone who was an Emerson, Lake and Palmer aficionado.  “Snowfall” was one of my favorite pieces of the evening, a dreamy jazz rhapsody evocative of Henry Mancini.  Several well-known Christmas songs followed, and after a buoyant version of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, well, that’s exactly what happened – Santa Claus came in, much to the delight of pretty much everyone in the room. (My thirteen-year old son, a non-believer since the age of ten, shook Santa’s hand and whispered to me afterwards, “I’m so glad he shook my hand”.)  After Santa and conductor James Orent bantered about the unreliability of Santa’s handheld device (cleverly nicknamed “Dearie”) Santa left for the North Pole and we all had a sing-along with lyrics projected behind the chorus.

Conducting the night I attended was Newton native James Orent, whose relaxed and convivial manner set the tone for fun and attentiveness.  His comfort and rapport with the audience – he would conduct us to clap during certain songs, and use hand gestures to convey his satisfaction – put everyone at ease.  Symphony Hall was decorated to the nines, with lighted garlands decking the stage and balconies.  In an age where fear and cynicism dominate the world view at large, Holiday Pops 2013 created a welcome respite where Santa is real and dreams come true.  Like the best Christmases of youth, none of us were left wanting. For more info go to:


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