Conductor John Morris Russell and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra finished out the 2018 concert and the Holiday Pop series on December 16 with an afternoon of joyous music and singing.
An admitted collector of old holiday music albums – he has over 1,000 albums now – Russell’s theme of the program centered around his top five choices of those albums and some treasures hidden within that collection.
The program opened with the BPO and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus with a rousing rendition of “We Need a Little Christmas”.
Guest vocalist Adia Dobbins joined the Orchestra for a performance of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” in a Big Band Jazz style.
Noting that some holiday albums only contain one really good song, Russell said that the Robert Shaw holiday album is great fro start to finish and led the BPO in performing one of the pieces from that album – “The Many Moods of Christmas, Suite 2” – a medley of tunes.
After telling the story of trying to explain the miracle of Channukah to his daughter – Russell led the BPO in a performance of “A Winter Miracle” – a mash up of “Channukah, O Channukah” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” – with Amy Glidden on violin.
Another one of Russel’s top albums is Duke Elington’s jazzed up “Nutcracker Suite”. He chose a “Dance of the Floreadores” fro this performance.
And to everyone’s surprise number five on his top five list of albums was a holiday offering from the flamboyant piano virtuoso Liberace. Russell offered a little comic relief by imitating Liberace as he read “The Night Before Christmas” before pianist Susan Schumann joined the BPO for Liberace’s version of “Sleigh Ride”.
The BPO closed out the first half of the show with the Trans Siberian Orchestra piece “The Bells of St. Michael” complete with flashing lights.
Russell opened the second half of the program by announcing the second Winter Miracle had occurred – the Buffalo Bills football team was leading the game with the Detroit Lions 14-13 (and held to in the game).
The Chorus joined the BPO to open the musical portion of the second half of the program with a Mormon Tabernacle Choir styled rendition of “Angels We Have Heard on High”.
Adia returned to the stage for a beautiful rendition of “Mary Did You Know”.
The Chorus performed “Deck the Halls” before actor Vincent O’Neill came on stage for a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” while the BPO played the “Concerto Grosso, Op 7, No 8” also known as the Christmas Concerto by Corelli. The original poem that became “The Night Before Christmas” was penned in 1822 as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.
The Chorus performed “I Believe” and Adia returned for a performance of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” before Russell led the full house in a Christmas Carol sing-a-long of “Joy to the World”, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, “Here We Come a Wassailing”, “Jingle Bells”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.
Adia closed out the program with a performance of “O Holy Night” to end a joyful afternoon in music and spirit.