New York Pops
New York Pops and Essential Voices USA. Photo by Richard Termine.

Leave it to music director/ conductor Steven Reineke and his New York Pops Orchestra to end 2017 with a festive bang.

On Friday and Saturday December 15th and 16th, the celebrated symphony held their annual Holiday concert at the tastefully decked Carnegie Hall. Friday’s audience had to trudge through snow and rainy sleet, but the delight heard inside far outweighed the fright that was endured outside.

From the rousing Holiday Overture to the light-hearted “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along,” these exquisite musicians reminded us why the Pops remain a cherished cultural city institution. 

Stage and screen star Megan Hilty (best known for her role as Ivy Lynn on NBC’s Smash), was on hand to deliver a new spin on Christmas favorites including, “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, “The Christmas Song”, “O Holy Night”, and “Winter Wonderland.”

Megan Hilty. Photo by Richard Termine.

The vocally versatile Tony nominee also delivered an amusing version of “Santa Baby.” She joked that last year around Christmas, she was both expecting her second child and singing the sultry innuendo filled song at venues around the country. (The song appears on her album A Merry Little Christmas 

Hilty bravely acknowledged that Christmas is not always a joyous time for many people before singing  ‘River’.  The melancholy Joni Mitchell classic found new, pensive depth through Sam Shoup’s adaptation and Hilty’s interpretation. 

Hillty wasn’t the only shining star on the Carnegie Stage, however.

Essential Voices USA, led by Judith Clurman, sang their usual seasonal tunes: Jerry Herman’s “We Need a Little Christmas”  John Williams’ “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas”, and the original song cycle, “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah.”

L-R. Steven Reineke, Judith Clurman, and Megan Hilty. Photo by Richard Termine.

This year, the chorus premiered David Chase’s new and utterly stunning arrangement of The First Noel.  The version has been permanently captured through this download. Although the holiday season is past, it should become an annual tradition.  In the midst of holiday madness, it reminds us why Christians celebrate Christmas. For non-observers, it still manages to feed spiritual nourishment to the soul.

Clurman’s vocalists strive for perfection. With their marvelous musical selections, they not only achieved, but exceeded their goal.

Of course, Santa and his trusty elf jauntily strolled in near the end of the end of the night. St. Nick conducted the orchestra and led concert goers in a cheerful sing along before sending the audience into the drizzly night slush.

Things will heat up again in February when the NY Pops welcomes Broadway stars Capathia Jenkins and James Monroe Iglehart. The pair will bring   Heart and Soul to life, singing some of the best known R&B standards.

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