Wednesday, November 28th, 2004 12:00 AM

News Menu Button Boston Pops returns with 'Sleigh Ride'

Kenneth LaFave
The Arizona Republic

For seven years straight, the Valley's holiday entertainment season kicked into high gear when the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra performed at America West Arena.

After a two-year absence, it's poised to do so again.

"It was nice to take a couple years off and build up demand, and it's great to be coming back to one of the most unusual venues on our tour," says Keith Lockhart, the famously fresh-faced conductor of the Boston Pops. Lockhart will conduct the Esplanade Orchestra - the Pops with a few personnel changes - in holiday music at 7 p.m. Sunday for an audience of up to 6,500, one of the three largest on the orchestra's seven-city tour. advertisement

"It's big. But big is good when it's filled with people," Lockhart says.

Filled it ought to be: As of Wednesday, only a few hundred tickets were available. The concert will contain performances of numbers from the Pops' new holiday album, Sleigh Ride, including Joy to the World and the Hallelujah Chorus. Other numbers include Happy Holidays, A Chanukah Overture, Little Road to Bethlehem, and a medley of such favorites as Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Chipmunk Song, A Holly Jolly Christmas, Deck the Halls, Frosty the Snowman and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Hayley Westenra, a teenage singer out of New Zealand, will join Lockhart and the orchestra for several numbers, including The Little Drummer Boy and We're Walking in the Air from The Snowman. Westenra became the fastest-selling classical crossover artist of all time in England, with the release earlier this year of her album Pure.

Lockhart acknowledges the meaning beyond music of concerts: "People come to these concerts for the tradition. They give a sense of stability, a sense of home. They come for the connections and the memories. The biggest challenge is to do these, year after year, keeping it fresh."

To keep this year's concert a little different from those past, there will be a narrated version of Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus, replacing the tried-and-true 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.


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Article located by Roger Mansbridge
Copyright © 2004, All rights reserved.


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