It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
Joni Mitchell’s “River” was given a powerful rendition by guest artist Megan Hilty. The blonde and statuesque Ms. Hilty was a glorious vision wearing a luminous white wedding dress as she sang in her throaty, expressive and emotional voice. In the first act Hilty wore a shimmering black gown. The Broadway performer and star of the television series Smash excelled at traditional perennials as well as eclectic selections such as that bittersweet one by Ms. Mitchell.
“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Santa Baby,” “A Place Called Home” by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Lynn Ahrens from their musical of A Christmas Carol, and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” were all wonderfully performed by Hilty. Interspersed with her performances was warm patter about her husband, actor Brian Gallagher, their two children and their relocation to Los Angeles. She recounted that they visit New York City every year at Christmas time.
The show opened strongly with the lovely “Holiday Overture” performed by The New York Pops. A giddy instrumental version of “Jingle Bell Rock” was another grand showcase for the orchestra.
Essential Voices USA is a distinguished choral ensemble that’s conducted by musical director and founder Judith Clurman. They appeared throughout the concert to great effect with Ms. Clurman occasionally conducting. “We Need a Little Christmas” from the musical Mame, composer John Williams’ “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” from Home Alone 2, and “The First Noel” were all delightfully sung by them.
A medley from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and “O Holy Night” were rich collaborations between Essential Voices USA, The New York Pops and Hilty.
Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah was a stirring sequence of enduring Jewish melodies arranged by Larry Hochman and Ms. Clurman that Essential Voices USA sang with The New York Pops.
A novel portion of the concert was when the adorably serious, eight year-old Charlotte Hall guest conducted for “Sleigh Ride.” There was a commotion in the audience when as the show was winding down, Santa Claus and the jovial elf Pecan Pie made their way through the auditorium. Santa later briefly and comically conducted the orchestra.
The joyous finale was the Jingle Jangle Sing-Along. That had the audience joining in with The New York Pops, Ms. Hilty, Santa, Pecan Pie and Essential Voices USA for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Jingle Bells.”
The New York Pops: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (December 15 and 16, 2017)
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, 881 7th Avenue at 57th Street, 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