Not only was the hall decked, but so was the ever-elegant Kelli O’Hara. On Friday, December 17th, the New York Pops returned to their Carnegie Hall home after 22 long months for a festive concert entitled Back Home for the Holidays.
The Tony award winning star stepped in after the previously named Laura Benanti had to bow out due to Covid exposure. After performing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” O’Hara addressed the audience. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice?,” she rhetorically asked . “No. You just have to give Laura Benanti covid!”
She was joking of course, citing a close friendship with Benanti. A friendship so close in fact that Benanti loaned O’Hara one of four dazzling gowns that she wore throughout the evening.
Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke threw in some audience favorites that showcased O’Hara including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “The Christmas Song.” “O Holy Night” brought the audience to its feet even before O’Hara hit the final note. Some lesser known pieces, “A Place Called Home” from Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens musical version of A Christmas Carol, and “Man with the Bag” were also sung by the impeccable vocalist
The Pops were featured in “Sleigh Ride”, “I Saw Three Ships”, “Jingle Bell Rock, ” and a lovely Hannukah piece called “Mis Zeh Hidlik (Behold the Lights).”
New York based singer Brandon Michael Nase joined O’Hara for the Irving Berlin classic, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” Later, Nase performed a solo, “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway. Fortunately, he knew all the words and did not yell for his background singers.
The New York Pops season continues on February 4th for Get Happy: That Nelson Riddle Sound featuring Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins.
For more information on the New York Pops, click here.
The following evening, Darlene Love set another hall ablaze with her annual concert, “Love for the Holidays.” The legendary vocalist has had a fascinating career, having experienced chart-topping career highs and less glamorous lows.
She was evidently at the top of her game on Saturday night with a mix of holiday classics (“Winter Wonderland”, “A Marshmallow World,” “White Christmas”) and the title song from Home Alone 2, “All Alone on Christmas.” She also thrilled her devoted audience with classic sixties tunes like “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”, “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home” and “He’s a Rebel.”
Love is perhaps best known for her single. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a song she performed every year on David Letterman’s Late Show for 28 consecutive years. The song has now become a tradition each year as she performs it on ABC’s The View. She ended the night with it and had the audience quite literally dancing in the aisles.
One of the evening’s most poignant moments came with the spiritual number, “Marvelous.” Love, the daughter of a pastor, tapped into her religious roots and-along with her stellar back up singers (Milton Vann, Keesha Gumbs, and Brianna Turner)- took the audience to church.
Love is a consummate professional who could teach a master class on performing—so could any of her fantastic musicians, led by music director Sam Appiah.
Although Love may not be an immediately recognizable name, it’s a safe bet that first time listeners will quickly convert to die hard fans and her holiday concert will become a yearly favorite.
Town Hall will close the year with Hedwig and the Angry Inch co-creators John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask for RETURN TO THE ORIGIN OF LOVE. Shows will take place at 8 PM each night from December 29th-31st.
For more information on Darlene Love, visit her website .
For more information on Town Hall, tickets and programming, click here.