Kicking off the holiday season here at UConn, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts hosted its annual performance by the world-famous Boston Pops Orchestra. The Pops’ conductor, Keith Lockhart, opened the show with a short speech on the value of keeping the Christmas spirit alive in these times of division and uncertainty, closing with a moving sermon by American author Henry Van Dyke Jr., titled “Keeping Christmas”:
“Then you can keep Christmas. And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.”
The performance was a true extravaganza of incredible music, exuding holiday cheer in every note. Crowd favorites included the opening performance of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the finale of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece “The Nutcracker” and the Boston Pops’ own iconic piece, “Sleigh Ride.” They even managed to accomplish the almost insurmountable feat of making the incessantly annoying carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” not only tolerable but a highlight of the night’s selections (something which, I believe, has never before been done by man). The particular arrangement performed by the Pops added new life to the piece by setting each verse to the tune of iconic piece of music, ranging from The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, changing the lyrics slightly each time to fit the tone of the current tune. This arrangement is destined to become a holiday classic in its own right.
Apart from moments of wonderful fun and excitement, the night also had moments of strong emotion, nowhere greater than in the piece, “A Longfellow Christmas,” narrated by Boston actor Patrick Shea. This selection told the true story of classic New England poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s writing of his famous poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In the winter of 1863, Longfellow sat pondering the meaning of Christmas in the wake of his wife’s tragic death and the return of his son, who was severely wounded in the ongoing Civil War. In his hour of hopelessness, Longfellow’s faith was restored upon hearing the triumphant sound of church bells, causing him to write the iconic poem. The words of Longfellow’s poem ring true for all, Christians or not, highlighting the power of hope and peace, even in the darkest of times. Also featured were a few guest appearances by the Metropolitan Chorale and Connecticut’s own director of culture, Kristina Newman-Scott, who gave a dramatic reading of Clement C. Moore’s classic, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
The show ended with “A Merry Little Sing-Along,” featuring many classic Christmas tunes (which had everyone in the building belting out the familiar lyrics) and a special appearance from St. Nick, followed by a few short encores.
The incomparable quality of the Pops’ music, mixed with the boundless energy of Keith Lockhart, led to a simply magical night. This performance was excellent on every level, and I can think of no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than by spending the night with the Boston Pops. Happy holidays everyone!
Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.