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Photo courtesy of Johanna Weber
Photo courtesy of Johanna Weber

Well, New York…It’s that time of year, again. Not, as the popular song goes,  “when the world falls in love and every song you hear seems to say ‘Merry Christmas’.” For most city folk,  it means cluttered sidewalks rife with tourists, longer lines than normal at the morning coffee shop, traffic jams, and a quick depletion of pain killer  from Costco sized bottles. This weekend, however, Essential Voices USA is determined to melt your frozen yuletide hearts as they take  to the Carnegie Hall stage  for The New York Pops’ annual concert “Home For the Holidays” this  Friday and Saturday, December 19th and 20th . The 60 voice chorus, under the direction of Judith Clurman, will be joined by Broadway stars Kelli O’Hara (recent star of The Bridges of Madison County and upcoming leading lady  of Lincoln Center’s The King and I revival) and Matthew Morrison (Light in the Piazza, Hairspray, and television’s Glee).  On Sunday afternoon , December 21st, a smaller ensemble of Essential Voices USA will join the orchestra  for a family  holiday concert. The afternoon will feature a staged 50th year anniversary celebration of the beloved television special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

 

Photo courtesy of Laura Marie Duncan
Photo courtesy of Laura Marie Duncan
Matthew Morrison_small2 (1)
Photo courtesy of Laura Marie Duncan

On Friday and Saturday, audiences will be treated to “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, “O Holy Night”, “We Need a Little Christmas” and other holiday  favorites. Sunday’s light offering  will include “Holly Jolly Christmas”, “Silver and Gold”, and the title song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. The afternoon will also feature members of the New York Theatre Ballet  as they re-enact scenes from the holiday classic.  All concerts will guided  by the baton of Steven Reineke, music director and conductor of The New York Pops.  As of the writing of  this article, tickets for all performances are extremely scare, so you’d better act fast, find a generous friend with an unused seat, or  pray for a holiday miracle.

Speaking of miracles, Clurman’s group will honor the season’s festive Jewish holiday  within the Friday and Saturday night concerts  with “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah.”  This collection of songs was arranged collectively by  Clurman, Larry Hochman, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Clurman translated the piece and  it originally premiered in December 2010 (under her baton) at Carnegie Hall  with Essential Voices USA and Stokes Mitchell. Due to popularity and acclaim, the group will once again revive this joyous song cycle , which is currently being performed  nationally by other vocal groups.  Although Essential Voices USA’s  weekend performances will not be recorded, Clurman’s arrangements of the Chanukah piece  have been preserved on the recording,  “Cherished Moments: Songs of the Jewish Spirit”, available through the Sono Luminus label on iTunes, amazon, and Spotify.  The album not only incorporates “Songs of Freedom”, but other holidays and life events surrounding the Jewish culture and religion.  Produced by the  Grammy award winning David Frost, it is one of Clurman’s proudest musical achievements.  “Each of these pieces is a cherished moment from my own life,” she says. Some of the pieces have been written with the last few years, while others are traditional songs like, “Han’shamalach”, a song that Clurman heard as a child in the synogogue. The album captures the essence of the Jewish experience and Clurman is particularly fond of the idea that, “Jews experience the sacred in time rather than space. It is through these moments that we find meaning and holiness in our lives. This album is a kaleidoscope of who we are as a people.” Both “Songs of Freedom”  and “Cherished Moments” capture the essence of Jewish life, but have broad, universal appeal.  Clurman observes, “It transcends by being fine music.”

Fortunately, for those who have already purchased tickets, they can  experience this musical transcendence live. If you’re one of the unfortunate music lovers who decided to lollygag  like a tourist from Topeka around the Rockefeller Christmas tree , download “Cherished Moments”  and let it fill your soul with peace and calm during this otherwise harried holiday.

For tickets and information visit:  http://www.carnegiehall.org/,

 http://www.essentialvoicesusa.com/

http://sonoluminus.com/p-386-cherished-moments-songs-of-the-jewish-spirit.aspx

 

Photo courtesy of Frank Wang
Photo courtesy of Frank Wang

 

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Photo courtesy of Gertjan Meijer