Boston Pops offers
Posted on Tue, Dec. 07,
Since the holiday season
is one time when audiences are guaranteed to be looking
for ways to spend their entertainment dollar, arts organizations
invariably try to come up with some fresh take on Christmastime
traditions, with irreverence and unconventionality being
among the most prized commodities.
Then there's the Boston
Pops approach, which was on full display at St. Paul's
Xcel Energy Center on Monday night. Irreverence? Not
a drop of it. Unconventionality? Precious little, thank
you. No, conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops
Esplanade Orchestra served up a warm cup of Christmas
comfort for an appreciative multi-generational crowd
of 3,105. While basically dancing with the style that
brung them, the orchestra showed that they still do
this kind of casual classicism as well as anyone in
While you might expect
Arthur Fiedler's old orchestra to attract an AARP-eligible
crowd, there were actually a number of teenage girls
in the audience, and for that you can thank Hayley Westenra.
The 17-year-old soprano from New Zealand is the latest
"classical crossover" phenom, something like
this decade's Charlotte Church.
For the first half of the
concert, Westenra was given the same angelic treatment
once accorded Church: Standing upstage bathed in bright
white incandescence, she pierced through the pretentiousness
with a simple, clear voice that worked best on soft
ballads like "I Wonder as I Wander."
While Westenra still has
some musical maturing to do — she knows how to hit those
high notes but swallows many a lyric getting up to them
— it's to her credit that she could take songs closely
associated with legends like Bing Crosby ("Do You
Hear What I Hear") and Judy Garland ("Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and give them
her own crystal-toned interpretation.
But Westenra's presence
was the only new wrinkle in what was, at root, a tribute
to tradition. Lockhart, the orchestra and the Pacific
Chorale delivered the seasonal fare with plenty of enthusiasm,
becoming an exceptional XXL big band on the jazziest
arrangements. But an encore version of "Sleigh
Ride" sounded like Leroy Anderson's original, leaving
the audience reveling in the comforts of conventionality.
Rob Hubbard can be reached at 651-228-5247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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