Attended NSO's Annual Holiday Pops Concert

We took the opportunity to attend the National Symphony Orchestra's annual Holiday Pops concert on Saturday evening. As usual (and possibly for the last time), the great Marvin Hamlisch conducted. There were marked similarities to the last such performance we saw 2-3 years ago, with Kevin Glavin playing a very familiar Santa Clause role and all.

The opening piece was a wonderful arrangement of "Away in a Manger" for which they turned all the house and stage lights down, then slowly turned up decorative lights throughout the staging, such as stars, wreaths, and trees.

The special guests for the evening (besides Santa) were Aundie Marie Moore, who's in the Washington National Opera's Young Artists' program (hand-selected by none other than Placido Domingo), and Cartoon Johnny, an amusing a cappella sextet. The NSO was also joined by the Washington Chorus which, how shall I say... weren't too great (flat sopranos).

Aside from the traditional highlight of singing a few carols as an audience, there were two standout moments. The first was right before the playing of Hamlisch's latest work, "Hanukkah Lights," when the tuba player put his instrument down and it fell apart, making quite a clatter. Hamlish immediately wheeled around and went off on a 5-10 minute improvisational stand-up act, asking the guy if he was ok, learning that the tuba was "broken," mocking the tuba for it's usually boring part, and so on. Good retorts were exchanged back and forth, making the whole thing uniquely hilarious.

The other great moment was the performance of the beautiful "Hanukkah Lights," with Aundie Moore singing the lyrics. This was an absolutely wonderful piece, slightly reminiscent of Hamlisch's younger days as a Broadway composer, combined with a soulful, gospel-like performance that was simply riveting. If you ever get a chance to see this work performed live by professionals, I would highly encourage it. Unlike the Chorus, it was a real keeper.

Overall, it was a worthwhile trip for another good performance. We were a bit nervous about the weather, with dire predictions eschewing forth from local forecasters all week. In the end, the drive in was relatively uneventful, and only moderate rain fell as we drove home. At this late hour (or early, one could say) we have heavy rains, but no ice or snow. According to the Weather Channel, we'll likely only get rain, which is probably fine given the drought conditions encountered this Fall.

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