Music Review: HOLIDAY SING-ALONG (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

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by William C. on December 25, 2021

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Los Angeles

A SING-ALONG WHERE WE DIDN’T SING ALONG
WORKED OUT SWELL

The matinee performance of LA Phil’s Holiday Sing-Along last Saturday was festive, kitschy and funny. Due to COVID, the concert’s annual sing-along format shifted into a fully presented performance. But truly, except for the returnee, one would ever know that it wasn’t normal that patrons didn’t sing at a sing-along. From Kathryn Orindgreff’s whimsical Christmas costume designs to the tastefully decorated stage, the audience of young and old had a wonderful time.

To be honest, a novelty concert was not what this jaded and tired reviewer was in the mood for at all — what with a surge of new infections, loud holiday shopping, bad L.A. drivers and family obligations to worry about. However, once I was able to let go of my cynical, selfish pre-occupations and embrace the holiday spirit, encouraged by seeing youngsters’ participation, I laughed, cheered and thoroughly enjoyed the concert while holding my husband’s hands.

Celebrity host Melissa Peterman (the actress known for The Sound of Music Sing-Along at the Hollywood Bowl) acted like a ditzy overzealous aunt in the chorus playing off the slightly embarrassed and straight-faced music director, Maestro John Sutton. The pair had a familiarity and authentic chemistry on stage that was infectious.

While the comedy was slightly on the corny side, I found the SNL-style self-deprecating mockumentary was hilarious and well produced. There is the audience interactive elements, as expected from a family concert, consisted of the jingling of car keys to “Jingle Bells”, a Mad Libs version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and — most notably — an ad lib jazz trio medley arrangement of TV and movie themes, commercial jingles, and classic Christmas tunes shouted out by the audience members, all set to a reggae rhythm. As impressive as this feat of melodic memory, the result wass a hot musical mess that got some soft chuckles ended up a bit much.

The voices in The Angeles Chorale were accompanied by masterful organist Philip Smith and jazz trio led by the very talented pianist, Bryan Pezzone. What set the tone for the concert was the pre-show trading of solo performances by Philip Smith and Bryan Pezzone. The contrasting tone of the grand piano and solo organ was an aural treat.

The ensemble performed every tune with good technique and care. The opener “Carol of the Bells” — ending with a haunting chiming soprano — was magical to experience. Next, a jubilant organ feature, the ensemble sang loudly on “Joy to the World” accompanied by a highly flourished organ line. (Most of the concert consisted of the jazz trio and the choir.) The 85-minute concert also had a rather cheeky rendition of “My Favorite Things” COVID edition with new text by Peterman including lines like “Ignoring my husband and crushing on Fauci.”

If any event can encapsulate a Christmas card in a concert, this would be it. I actually would very much like to return next year. I will just  remember to leave my weary soul in the parked car and prepare for some unabashed Christmas spirit.

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