The Boston Pops celebrated its 15th holiday season at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 4, performing a diverse selection of light classical music spanning numerous continents and decades with modern popular hits and traditional sing-along-worthy Christmas tunes.
“The best way to kick off the holiday season in Connecticut is right here in Storrs with the Boston Pops under the direction of maestro Keith Lockhart,” Jorgensen Director Rodney Rock said in his opening remarks for “Holiday Pops: The Boston Pops on Tour.”
The lights dimmed as Lockhart briskly walked onto the stage to thunderous applause from the audience. The crowd was alight with enthusiasm and welcomed Lockhart like an old friend. Without any opening remarks, Lockhart took his place at the podium and launched into conducting Adrianus Valerius’s “We Gather Together: A Holiday Fanfare.” The song’s message encompassed the general theme of the evening.
“It is wonderful to be back with this wonderfully supportive audience here at the Jorgensen Center. Thank you for having us, and welcome back to the thrill of live music,” Lockhart said after the completion of the first song. “As life slowly returns to normal, it seems appropriate to ask, ‘What are we most grateful for this holiday season?’ What I’m most grateful for can be summed up in the first three words of the first song we performed tonight: ‘We gather together.’ Community is at the heart of the holidays.”
The audience was not only treated to music from the Boston Pops, but also the Metropolitan Chorale, a chorus from Brookline Massachusetts led by music director Lisa Graham who accompanied Lockhart’s orchestra. At one point, Lockhart even surrendered his baton to Graham and exited the stage as she led her chorus in Michael John Trotta’s “Veni Veni Emmanuel.” The stage was shared with various guests throughout the evening, including actress Cheryl Singleton, who narrated a story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, and a UConn School of Fine Arts professor who narrated Clement C. Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” as the Pops played in the background.
“It’s fantastic,” said UConn alumni Matt Breton (‘10). “I love the diversity in music too. We’ve heard some real traditional songs, but we’ve also gotten a lot of unique arrangements that we’ve never heard before.”
“IT IS WONDERFUL TO BE BACK WITH THIS WONDERFULLY SUPPORTIVE AUDIENCE HERE AT THE JORGENSEN CENTER. THANK YOU FOR HAVING US, AND WELCOME BACK TO THE THRILL OF LIVE MUSIC…”Keith Lockhart
The first half of the show was dedicated to these unique, culturally diverse songs, some of which were arranged especially for the Boston Pops. “México, Ángel y Pastor” seemed to be a favorite of Lockhart and the crowd. The former conducted the orchestra with dance-like movements through the bouncy, brass-heavy Mexican number by Silvino Jaramillo. This was followed by “The Good News Voyage,” a medley of African American spirituals — “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Rise, Shine for Your Light is Coming” and “Mary Had a Baby Boy” — arranged by David Coleman and accompanied with on-screen illustrations by author and illustrator Ashley Bryan.
After a brief intermission, the concert leaned more into the holiday theme, starting with a jazzy, swinging rendition of “Happy Holiday!” The group continued with this jazz theme for a few more songs, playing excerpts from Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite.” The audience was very pleased with “Sugar Rum Cherry,” a jazzy take on the familiar “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
After an enthusiastic rendition of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” the jolly man in red himself made an appearance on stage with an ecstatic reaction from the audience. He exchanged some wise words with Lockhart. The orchestra then launched into “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which was remixed into a medley to the tune of songs including Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Can-Can.” This was my favorite song performed all night, and the first to elicit a standing ovation from the audience.
As people filed out of Jorgensen Center, a vibrant sense of community could be felt among the concert-goers, glad to be together and celebrating the holidays. I’m sure each person took with them the sage words from Old Saint Nick earlier that evening: “The holiday season is a pandemic of love and hope, and that we can’t do without.”