The Niagara Symphony’s “Holiday Pops” attracted a full house of all ages and interests. The varied program truly had something for everyone from Harris’ ever-popular Medley of Well-Known Carols (er, well-known to some cultures, hello there diversity …) to Hamlin’s ode to critics!, Christmas with Mr. Grump (enthusiastically narrated by Kim Selody and featuring the delightful grumbles of Darlene Jussila and her contrabassoon). However, the best gift under the tree was most certainly The Malletheads (Michael Phelan, conductor) who brought not only their considerable skills, but—more importantly—zest and joy in the music-making that contrasted sharply with their black-suited professional colleagues’ workmanlike attitude.
But don’t take my word for it. Once again I was accompanied to the program by a Concert Companion (see below for details). It was the first-ever symphony for this Niagara native who spends her workday raising funds and awareness for a provincial health-related charity.
A new feature in JWR, and in conjunction the Niagara Symphony Association, newcomers to the subscription series concerts are invited to attend free of charge then offer their candid first-time opinion.
“Over all I enjoyed the songs I already knew—the carols and especially The Polar Express. I wasn’t expecting the conductor to speak. His introduction was slightly wrong from my point of view. The boy’s crisis of belief wasn’t mentioned or how the film was really a metaphor for the good that can be found in people. But when the music began, I saw the film in my head and relived the experience,” she remarked.
“I was also surprised at how many young people played in the orchestra. I’d imagined most would be their ‘60s or ‘70s. It was helpful when you explained why the strings were at the front, the role of the concertmaster and what the conductor’s job was. It didn’t seem like they watched him too much, but if they’d played the pieces enough they wouldn’t need to. What I really enjoyed was watching the sound come out of the musicians—that’s impossible with CDs—you hear better when you can ‘see’ the sound and have a much better appreciation for the composing of the music. And I was amazed at how the instruments can sound like things. [Especially in the hands of such brilliant orchestrators as Leroy Anderson.]
“I liked the whole second half—The Malletheads were fantastic. I hope the sing-along isn’t a regular feature. I guess it’s OK with so many families attending, but there shouldn’t be so many verses—the guy beside me was gasping for air.”
“Yes, I would go again because I had such an enjoyable time, but I would like to go with someone who knows about the music—especially the songs I’ve never heard before. Why don’t they start a music singles club? That would be great way of getting know others with similar interest.”
Let’s hope management is listening!
As the orchestra’s tagline declaims, “music moves you.” It was true of my companion, but also brilliantly illustrated by an uninhibited six-year old conductor in the front-row of the audience and (unbeknownst to her) an octogenarian in the middle of the hall whose ecstatic hands also urged the orchestra forward in the pieces they knew.
Happy holidays indeed! JWR