From Music in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Pops "Holiday Pops" Conjures Christmas

Posted in: 2015
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Dec 15, 2015 - 9:30:07 AM

No matter that it was spring-like outside, the spell of a traditional Christmas was very much alive inside Music Hall Dec. 13.

With the winter solstice approaching (Dec. 21), the aim of the Cincinnati Pops holiday concert was to “push back the darkness,” said Pops conductor John Morris Russell.

And it did.

Playing before a near sellout audience, Russell and the Pops, plus guest artists the New York Voices quartet and a choir comprising the School for Creative and Performing Arts Chorale and the Cincinnati Pops Holiday Chorale presented an irresistible program of seasonal favorites.

Joining them were bell ringers from the Cincinnati Collaborative Ringing Project and dancers from the Cincinnati Studio for Dance.

One could not help but absorb the holiday spirit in festooned and garlanded Music Hall, where lots of red sweaters stood out among the audience in addition to Russell and the musicians’ red blazers.

The concert opened with “Deck the Halls,” given a big, full company performance by the Pops and the choir. Russell followed with the carol that opened the first holiday Pops concert in 1990, “O Tannenbaum,” arranged by Carmon Dragon.  And there was a tribute to Hanukah, “Mis Zeh Hidlik” (“Behold the Lights”), which featured a lovely solo by Christopher Philpotts on English horn.

Then it was one highpoint after another, Russell providing a touch of variety by reading “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe to the accompaniment of the Collaborative Ringing Project in their Cincinnati Pops debut. The bell ringers also took the stage at a table in front of the orchestra for “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and “Carol of the Bells,” which reached a big climax before the choristers entered. Russell paid tribute to the local chapter of the stage workers union with a two-and-a-half minute time lapse video of them decorating Music Hall to “Winter Wonderland.”

 Other big numbers were “Let it Snow” (though the weather outside was not “frightful,” with sunshine and temperatures approaching 60 degrees), a swinging “We Three Kings” with the New York Voices and “Jingle Bell Rock” with dancers from Cincinnati Studio for the Dance, who broke into tap at end.

A favorite of the show, as it is every year, was “The 12 Daze of Cincinnati Christmas” with the Studio Dancers and its “Twelve Days of Christmas” countdown of Cincinnatiana: “A Ride on the Delta Queen,” 2 scoops of Graeters” to “12 zoo babies” (“8 flying pigs was sung with a snatch of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”).

There was a Santa Claus walk on to “Jolly Old St. Nicholas and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” plus a sing along video with the words of familiar carols projected above the stage.

"Merry Christmas, Cincinnati!" exclaimed Russell, who helps that happen every year with his wonderful holiday shows.

© Copyright 2015 by Music in Cincinnati