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NY Pops & Megan Hilty Enjoy ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
New York Pops' "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" cast (far left) Steven Reineke & Judith Clurman, (center) Megan Hilty, (far right) Santa Claus & Pecan Pie, with members of Essential Voices USA
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The New York Pops’ ebullient holiday program, led by Steven Reineke and given at Carnegie Hall on December 15 and 16, was billed as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and had, as illustrious featured guests, Broadway, television, and film star Megan Hilty and the Essential Voices USA (EVUSA), headed by Judith Clurman. The first night is discussed here.
After Reineke presided over a grand potpourri Holiday Overture, arranged by James Stephenson and consisting of excerpts from “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Deck the Halls,” “Oh Chanukah! Oh Chanukah!,” “S’vivon Sov Sov Sov” (Dreydl, Spin, Spin, Spin), “Good King Wenceslas,” and “The First Noel,” EVUSA offered a cheerful and polished “We Need a Little Christmas,” by Jerry Herman, from “Mame,” in Robert Wendel’s arrangement, with interpolated bits of “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “Deck the Halls,” as well as the line “Happy with our Maestro,” causing Reineke to beam.
Hilty introduced herself with vibrant accounts of the evening’s title song, by Edward Pola and George Wyle, in James Kessler’s edition, and Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith’s “Winter Wonderland,” in Tim Berens’ edition, employing both her jazz or chest register and her legit voice. She continued with a dulcet “Christmas Song,” by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé, orchestrated by Adam Podd.
The Pops took center stage again with Mykola Leontovych’s “Carol of the Bells,” as arranged by David Hamilton, gaily swirling, haunting, and tintinnabulating. EVUSA returned with three selections from “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah,” in arrangements by Clurman and Larry Hochman: a quiet, then emphatic “Oh Chanukah! Oh Chanukah!,” in English; the candle-lighting prayer “Haneirot Halalu,” in Hebrew and English; and majestic hymn “Maoz Tzur” (Rock of My Salvation), in English and Hebrew.
We then went to the movies. Assisted by the Pops and pianist Lee Musiker, Hilty offered a tender “Count Your Blessings” and, with EVUSA, a swinging “Snow,” both by Irving Berlin, from “White Christmas,” in versions by Sam Shoup and Reineke, and a hot “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, orchestrated by Adam Podd, originally sung by Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” EVUSA delivered a ringing “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas,” by John Williams, from “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
Hilty seduced us with siren song “Santa Baby,” by Joan Javits and Philip Springer, as orchestrated by Matt Podd, made famous by Eartha Kitt. Hilty went on the contemplation and yearning of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” in Shoup’s adaptation.
Clurman came to the podium to lead EVUSA, harmonizing in a mellifluous “The First Noel,” featuring pianist Musiker and cellist Daniel D. Miller, in a new arrangement created by David Chase for the choral ensemble. Eight-year-old Charlotte Hall guest conducted the Pops in Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” third and youngest Hall sibling to guide the orchestra. And Santa Claus, making an entrance with his special elf Pecan Pie, took the baton from Reineke to preside over “Jingle Bells.” Reineke led his players in his arrangement of Joseph Carlton Beal and James Ross Boothe’s “Jingle Bell Rock,” with a Dixieland-band sound.
Hilty’s final set consisted of a very sweet “A Place Called Home,” from Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ musical “A Christmas Carol,” as orchestrated by Curtis McKonly; a warm and sentimental “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon, in Reineke’s edition, which the singer “dedicated to the brave men and women of our armed forces, who are overseas;” and with EVUSA, a refined rendition of Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night,” with English-language text by John Sullivan Dwight, in a version by David Foster, Jerry Lubbock, Reineke, and Matt Podd. I later told Hilty about David T. Clydesdale’s dazzling arrangement of the French carol, with numerous modulations and high notes, which Sandi Patty and Kelli O’Hara had performed with the Pops, and ventured that I thought it would suit her as well.
The holiday celebration concluded with a “Jingle Jangle Sing-Along,” with Hilty, EVUSA and Judith Clurman, Santa and Pecan Pie, and the Pops, devised by Reineke, of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Jingle Bells,” with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as an encore.
In 2018, at Carnegie Hall, the Pops hosts guest artists James Monroe Iglehart and Capathia Jenkins in “Heart and Soul,” an evening celebrating the history of R&B, on February 2 at 8 pm, and on March 9 at 8 pm, gives us “The Best of Hollywood: Blockbuster Film Scores,” iconic musical themes from the silver screen. The Pops’ 35th Birthday Gala will take place on April 30 and Alan Menken will be honored. Visit www.nypops.org for further information.



 

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