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The New York Pops: “Make the Season Bright”

The Callaway sisters, the Nunziata twins and the renowned orchestra performed a warmly entertaining program of Christmas classics and Hanukah songs.

Soloists sisters Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway and twins Will and Anthony Nunziata with Music Director Steven Reineke, The New York Pops and Essential Voices USA in “Make the Season Bright” (December 16 & 17, 2016) (Photo credit: Maryann Lopinto)

Soloists sisters Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway and twins Will and Anthony Nunziata with Music Director Steven Reineke, The New York Pops and Essential Voices USA in “Make the Season Bright” (December 16 & 17, 2016) (Photo credit: Maryann Lopinto)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” with a traditional spiritual arrangement that switched to a raucous rock and roll one, was among the grand highlights of The New York Pops: “Make The Season Bright.”

The renowned orchestra’s annual holiday concert at Carnegie Hall featured guest artists sisters Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, and twin brothers Will and Anthony Nunziata.  They joined the ebullient Music Director Steven Reineke for that rousing first act closing number for which Mr. Reineke wrote the inspired arrangement.

It was a warmly entertaining program of classics and not so familiar songs including Hanukah ones.  In the second act, an elf and Santa Claus strode through the audience and onto to the stage where Santa delightfully guest conducted for a while.

For the show’s lovely opening number, The New York Pops were joined by the excellent NY Choral group, Essential Voices USA, with its conductor Judith Clurman in attendance, for a swirling “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  This combination of talents was also heard on an uplifting “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Another one of Mr. Reineke’s accomplished arrangements was for a jazzy “Jingle Bell Rock,” that The New York Pops also performed with flashes of ragtime.

Hanukah was marvelously represented by The New York Pops and Essential Voices USA’s renditions of Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Young’s “The Chanukah Song” (“We Are Lights”) and “Maoz Tsur,” from Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah.

The concert was also a showcase for the immense talents of the inimitable Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway.  Ms. Hampton Callaway used the Ella Fitzgerald arrangement for a joyous “Winter Wonderland.”  She also performed a moving “Yes, Virginia,” about the eight year-old girl who in 1897, wrote to the editor of The New York Sun newspaper asking if there really was a Santa Claus.

Ms. Callaway sang two wistful songs from the animated musical Anastasia, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to The Past.”  There was also her tender “Grown-Up Christmas List.”  The sisters united for a stirring sequence of “Silent Night” and “Mary, Did You Know?”.

“I need to bring my sunglasses on stage for these two,” joked Reineke about Will and Anthony Nunziata.  These Brooklyn born, classically trained, young singers changed in and out of a variety of glittering sequined blazers throughout the show.  “No night is ever only in Carnegie Hall.  Especially if you’re making your debut,” said Will.

Charmingly youthful and personable, their as yet unseasoned talents were finely exhibited during the concert.  Will sweetly sang “The Christmas Song,” and Anthony achingly sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”  Together they performed Michael Feinstein and John Bucchino’s wry “Carnegie Hall,” and their own composition written with Jeff Frankel, “The Gift Is You.”

They also joined The New York Pops, the Callaways and Essential Voices USA for a thrilling performance of “Silver Bells.”  They all collaborated once again on a tribute to the works of Irving Berlin that culminated in a sensitive version of “White Christmas.”

The beautiful wreath and garlands hanging above the stage were festively lit up for the wonderful finale, the “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along.”  All of the performers appeared and encouraged the audience to join in for convivial group singing of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Jingle Bells.”

The New York Pops: “Make the Season Bright” (December 16 & 17, 2016)

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

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (322 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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