Holiday programs are celebrations. They exist to make folks happy. They’re not really designed for critical analysis or reviewing. So, consider this a deserved report with comment. And the report is that the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra offered two audiences a holiday celebration in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater last Friday, a shorter one in late afternoon aimed for families with children (about 75 youngsters attended) and a somewhat longer one in the evening (with far fewer ones).
Called “Holly Days,” the program continued a recent add-on to the Bloomington Symphony’s annual schedule, one that the now disbanded Bloomington Pops used to provide, a community-planned event for the Bloomington community. The BSO has generously stepped into the breach left by the Pops and now annually performs on the day after Thanksgiving, when the 200-thousand-bulb Canopy of Lights is ceremoniously lit above the courthouse square.
As usual with such events, the fare featured a mix of traditional Christmas music and pop songs, the latter including an Al Cobine arrangement of “White Christmas,” a Brent Wallarab arrangement of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow,” and, from Leroy Anderson, three items: “Suite of Carols,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Clarinet Candy,” the last a delightful exercise in virtuosity for the BSO’s two clarinetists, Carl Weinberg and Keith Northover.
Singing was limited to a welcome sing-along of carols. But the orchestra, led by artistic director Adam Bodony, acquitted itself nobly, adding four pieces from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and the lively concert-closing “A Rockin’ Christmas.”
Yes, Santa made an appearance. And so did a local celebrity, none less than Mayor Mark Kruzan, who lifted his ample speaking voice for a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the popular story-in-rhyme widely attributed to 19th century poet and professor Clement Clarke Moore. The orchestra accompanied the words in the form of a charming Bill Holcombe-written orchestral score.
Christmas trees and wreaths and strings laden with white lights contributed to the holiday aura. All I missed were insertions here and there of music proclaiming the other prominent and concurrent holidays, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. They deserve representation.