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The New York Pops: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Guest artist Megan Hilty joined the celebrated orchestra for a spirited program of holiday songs that included a Hanukah sequence.  Santa also appeared.

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Soloist Megan Hilty with maestro Steven Reineke, The New York Pops and Essential Voice USA in a scene from “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” at Carnegie Hall (December 15 and 16, 2017) (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

“Carol of the Bells” was a thrilling highlight of The New York Pops’ spirited holiday concert The Most Wonderful Time of the Year at Carnegie Hall. The New York Pops’ music director Steven Reineke gracefully conducted the 78-piece orchestra and was the ingratiating host of this festive event.

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.

Soloist Megan Hilty with maestro Steven Reineke, The New York Pops and Essential Voices USA in a scene from “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” at Carnegie Hall (December 15 and 16, 2017) (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

“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.

Conductor Steven Reineke, soloist Megan Hilty, Santa Claus and the elf Pecan Pie as they appeared in The New York Pops’ “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” at Carnegie Hall (December 15 and 16, 2017) (Photo credit: Richard Termine)

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

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (571 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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