A PATRON COMMENTED THIS CONCERT AS BEING, “THE VERY BEST CHRISTMAS CONCERT YET!!” OTHERS WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE WITH THEM.
Friends and family gathered for the LSO holiday concert, Sounds of Peace, with smiles, hugs, and happy chatter. The lobby had a special delight as “The Soundpost,” a group formed by members of the LSYO, under the direction of Celeste Myall, serenaded the Patrons with pre-concert holiday classics. They warmed hearts as everyone came in from the cold. This was an extra-touch that greatly added to the holiday atmosphere. The excitement of a sold-out house paired with the wonderful program line-up was clear throughout the auditorium. The buzz of happy conversation gave way to anticipatory quiet within an instant, as the concert was about to start.
A little different in this concert, the musicians were positioned forward on the stage making room for the choir risers behind them for later in the program. Stage setup is an art to give the audience the best possible experience and here they had to balance a large choir, symphony, a piano, and six soloists!
Beginning with two selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite No. 1, the holiday stage was indeed set with Miniature Overture and March. The brass and woodwind were notably wonderful in both pieces, but especially in the Tchaikovsky March.
Leroy Anderson’s cheerful Sleigh Ride was next. Being one of the world’s most popular holiday compositions, this piece was surprisingly written during a heatwave. One can only believe that a heatwave would require even greater holiday imagery. The steady rhythm of sleigh bells painted a wonderful wintry picture. Complete with whipcracks and horse whinny the scene was joyful and carefree.
Changing the mood for the next piece, the pastoral Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams was introspective and, of course, very English. Inspired by the traditional ‘Greensleeves’, Fantasia on Greensleeves was originally part of the opera Sir John in Love. Beginning with flute and harp together it gave a calm sense of peace and led into the theme’s melody which flowed effortlessly and loftily through the strings.
Sandwiched by another of Leroy Anderson’s pieces, next came A Christmas Festival. Taking several of the best-known Christmas themes, Anderson melded them into an overture. Cheerful and bright, he captured the full gamut of the holiday in a single seamless piece, which the musicians performed brilliantly.
After a very brief pause while the impressive choir came onstage, the audience was included in the traditional sing-along. Then they were given a premier performance of the newly orchestrated version of Nativity Carol by Prior. Originally penned in 2002, Dr. Prior re-orchestrated it for a larger symphony, which we were given the honor of hearing first. If you kept a copy of the program, you will find the words to this carol on page 3, upon which you may want to reflect. They include lovely words of calm, safety, and of course, darkness turned into light by a tender babe. The Choral Society of West Georgia brought these words to life, and the LSO highlighted them with the beautiful composition. It was inspiring and delightful and was rewarded with hearty applause from the audience.
Lastly, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy finished the evening with majesty and power. Andrew Harry performed the impressive concerto on piano with the LSO. Together, with soloists Andrea Mueller, Brenda Frye, Toni Anderson, Ed Biggs, Johnathan Pilkington, James Camp, the Choral Society of West Georgia and the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra nailed this larger-than-life piece and gave the audience a powerhouse performance. It was wonderful. The entire concert was a success and the audience appreciated it with a standing ovation. The evening definitely ended on a high note.