Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday Pops

Friday night’s Holiday Pops concert by the college-community orchestra at Mary Washington was an ambitious undertaking, and I have to give Kevin Bartram, the orchestra director, an A for effort. He mixed traditional holiday music (Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc.) with theatrical vignettes featuring historic figures in a program called "Ghosts of Christmas Past." The premise is that a young runaway finds herself in the attic of the Fredericksburg Area Museum on Christmas Eve, and is visited by the ghosts of local historic figures such as Mary Washington, James Monroe (that's him above), and James Farmer, who each perform a dramatic monologue in the form of actual letters they had written. On paper, it sounds pretty good. In reality...not so much. Some of the letters were pretty dry documents, hard to follow, and with little relevance to the music or the story. The vignettes didn’t seem to have much of a point, and as far as I’m concerned, they needlessly distracted from what should have been the focus of the evening, the music. The overall effect just didn’t work. Still, from the director’s standpoint, dragging out the same old holiday warhorses year after year must get old, and I can commend him for trying something different. And it did seem like I was in the minority; the crowd seemed to like the presentation just fine. Probably because it had Costumes! and Acting! and Spotlights! and Old Photos projected on the Walls! A veritable multi-media extravaganza.

But there was one saving grace: the performance of the final “ghost,” Fredericksburg’s own operatic tenor, Kevin Perry, singing “O Holy Night.” That one song was worth the price of admission (okay, it was free, but you get the idea). Now if instead of dramatic readings, Kevin had sung the contents of the letters, I would have been very happy. Maybe next year, huh, Kev?

And just a mention for my favorite local singing group, Fourte, who performed their holiday repertoire on Sunday afternoon at the Griffin Bookshop. They did their usual fine job, and I managed to get a little shopping done, too.

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