Review: New York Pops Brings Holiday Magic to Carnegie
By Megan Wrappe, Contributing Writer, December 19, 2017
I knew the night had the potential to be magical as the snow began to steadily fall last Friday afternoon. Making for a slushy and wet walk to Carnegie Hall, it didn’t dampen my excitement and expectations for the evening to come. Walking into the venue, it was clear that this was going to be a showstopper kind of night. With Christmas lights hung all over the stage, the Essential Voices USA ready to back-up the New York Pops, and adding in that special element of guest soloist Megan Hilty and her fabulous vocal range, it all seemed a match made in Christmas heaven.
The program was filled with Christmas classics such as “Winter Wonderland,” “The Christmas Song,” and “We Need a Little Christmas.” Hilty was more than prepared to deliver on all of her numbers, since she and her husband (Brian Gallagher) released a Christmas album last season, with many of the songs in her set from that recording. She also included lesser known songs, like Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and “A Place Called Home” from Alan Menken’s musical version of A Christmas Carol, which she said she has sung for years, but the meaning seems to change for her each successive year that she sings it.
There were also a few new numbers on the program—courtesy of New York Pops conductor and music director Steven Reinke, who commissioned three new Hanukkah songs a few years ago to help celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights. The voices of Essential Voices USA were perfect and melodious the entire night, especially during this medley arrangement, with their voices blending beautifully. It was was a wonderful addition to be able to celebrate both Christmas and this seasonal Jewish holiday over the course of the evening.
Hilty did a wonderful job of covering the classic Christmas songs, but my favorites were the ones where the orchestra was given the moment to shine. There were renditions of “Carol of the Bells” and “Sleigh Ride” where the sounds coming from the instruments truly shone. While these are all standard holiday fare, the Pops gave one of the best performances of them I can remember in recent memory. Topping off this wonderful concert, Santa and his elf, Pecan Pie, joined Hilty and Reinke on stage for a crowd sing-along of “Ruldolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Frosty the Snowman.” It was truly holiday magic, and a fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit.
The New York Pops in The Most Wonderful Time of the Year at Carnegie Hall on December 15 – 16, 2017. Steven Reineke, Music Director and Conductor; Megan Hilty, guest artist; and Essential Voices USA, Judith Clurman, Music Director and Conductor.
Cover: Megan Hilty and Steven Reineke conducting The New York Pops in ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ at Carnegie Hall; photo: Richard Termine.