Over the years, Maestro Morales-Matos has mastered the art of constructing a satisfying Christmas program. It consists of the familiar mixed in with some novelties and concluding with the audience’s participation in rhythmic clapping in the Radetsky March. That this fixture has nothing to do with Christmas is beside the point. It is a joyous work, and it always sends people home in a festive mood. What more could we hope for?
In spite of the bitter cold, a good crowd was on hand for the first concert on Sunday afternoon in Gray Chapel, which I attended. Beginning with “Christmas Memories,” a medley arranged by Bruce Chase of pop favorites such as “Santa Claus is coming to town,” and “Frosty the snowman,” was followed by Johann Strauss’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz,” a pleasant change of pace.
Dwight Lenox was back again this year, and a welcome presence he is. He offered “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as arranged by Rebecca Larkin, in something of a souped up version, followed by an arrangement of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” by Jolley /Zucker,which was very attractive.Lenox returned a bit later for his concluding number, “Bending toward the light,” arranged by Alan Klinect. All of Lenox’s songs were premieres,which tends to add freshness by presenting a slightly different take on old classics. It is also worth noting that Rebecca Larkin, Todd Zucker and Alan Klinect are Ohio Wesleyan students.
After Lenox’s first two songs, came the “March of the Toys,” from Victor Herbert’s operetta “Babes in Toy Land.” This was an inspired addition this year and one which might achieve a repetition for next year.
The other soloist of the afternoon was pianist and composer, Bradley Sowash whose “Patapan” arrangement was also a first. It turned into an aggressively jazzy piece,which had heads bobbing across the hall. “Advent” from “the Spirit of Christmas 2, was a set of variations on “O Come Emmanuel.” A final Sowash arrangement of “What Child is this?” managed to combine the sacred and profane. It began with a serious statement by the strings which then turned into a rather wild and amusing jazz treatment of the theme.
The final section of the concert was devoted to old tried and true works: Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song”, a sing-along version of “Silent Night,” Leroy Anderson’s “Christmas Festival,” and the afore mentioned “Radetsky March.” In spite of the bitter weather, everyone had a good time. This was one of the better Christmas concerts within recent memory. ‘Merry Christmas to all/ and to all a Good Night.”