Pops toast season with glee, tradition
Half the fun of the Holiday Pops’ fantastical rendering of “The Twelve Days of Christmas’’ is the inevitable parlor game it ignites. Not your standard and staid rendition, the Pops version reimagines the classic - day by day, partridge by partridge - in a mashup of melodies from other songs.
Was that really Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody’’ on the 11th day of Christmas, preceded by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top’’ with a snippet of Beethoven’s Fifth?
It was, and the Pops’ deft rendition of the crowd-pleaser, which it debuted in 2007, was the centerpiece of Wednesday night’s spirited opening performance of the Holiday Pops, the seasonal staple conducted by Keith Lockhart and featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
Striking a balance between solemn and sassy, the first set leaned toward the sacred. “Christmas Canticles,’’ the vigorous opening montage, featured an array of chestnuts. The Hallelujah Chorus, from Handel’s “Messiah,’’ roared with thunderous voices from the choir.
It was a pleasure to see those singers loosen up in the second half, shifting playfully from “Silver Bells’’ to “My Favorite Things’’ in a medley and later savoring “Baby It’s Cold Outside.’’
Lockhart, festive in a red shirt, did his best to get into the spirit, too. After a salute to Santa songs, Lockhart bantered with the man himself, who worked his way onstage with a bag full of toys and a handful of corny jokes.
There was special attention to local talent, from WBZ-TV news anchor Lisa Hughes gamely narrating “A Visit From St. Nicholas’’ (also known as “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas’’) to a new work called “The Gifts of Great Meadows.’’
The languorous piece unfurled to video images of snowcapped landscapes that Pops principal horn player Richard Sebring had snapped on his iPhone (“Yes, we’re in that kind of day,’’ Lockhart quipped) along a frozen Sudbury River.
During the closing audience sing-along, with lyrics on an overheard projector, one couple moved out of their seats. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s hard to quibble with two people slow-dancing to the surround sounds of a full Symphony Hall singing in unison: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.’’
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.