In between, there was a delightful selection of classic and newer Christmas songs several performed by Broadway stars Stephanie J. Block and Brian d’Arcy James. Santa Claus and one of his elves also comically visited. Beaming music director Steven Reineke commandingly conducted the 78-piece orchestra and personably hosted this engaging presentation.
“You have a week! How do you feel?” Ms. Block joked about the impending holiday. During the show, she changed from a festive evergreen colored gown to a bold red and gold one and later a black beaded one. She performed lovely renditions of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” She also winningly sang a newer song written by Wesley Whatley and Bill Schermerhorn, “Yes, Virginia.” It’s a stirring composition based on the well known 1897 incident of a little girl writing to The Sun, a New York newspaper asking if there really was a Santa Claus and inspiring the legendary affirmative editorial.
Looking dashing in a tuxedo, Mr. James spiritedly sang “The Christmas Song,” “Jingle Bells,” and an emotional song he wrote called “Michigan Christmas.” It’s a nostalgic number inspired by and dedicated to father who died over 20 years ago. “This is my favorite. The best of them all!” he exclaimed as Ms. Block joined him for a bouncy duet of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Later they did a warm “Silver Bells” together.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first television airing of The Peanuts classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Christmas Time Is Here” written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi was movingly performed by the 20-member Essential Voices USA conducted by choral director Judith Clurman. They also joined The New York Pops for the French carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” John Williams’ “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” from Home Alone 2, and with Mr. James for “Silver Bells” and Ms. Block for “O Holy Night.”
“Little Bolero Boy” was a thrilling mash up of “The Little Drummer Boy” and Ravel’s Boléro cleverly arranged by Robert Wendel and dynamically performed by The New York Pops. The orchestra also did a raucous “Jingle Bell Rock” during which Santa Claus and an impish elf appeared in the audience. Santa even conducted for a while.
Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” was the jubilant highlight of a holiday hits medley that brought the collective talents of The New York Pops, Stephanie J. Block, Brian d’Arcy James, and the Essential Voices USA all together and closed the first act.
Hanging across the top of Carnegie Hall’s stage was a large wreath looped with a long garland, both of which were decorated with red ribbons and colorful ornaments. On view throughout The New York Pops: It’s Christmas Time in the City, it was a beautiful visual flourish complementing this marvelous show that was a joyous prelude to the holiday.
The New York Pops: “It’s Christmas Time in the City” (December 18 and 19, 2015)
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, 881 7th Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-247-7800 or visit http://www.carnegiehall.org
For information on The New York Pops, visit http://www.newyorkpops.org
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission