The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s 21st annual Holiday Concert was given before a huge audience in the Greensboro Coliseum Arena. It was a show guaranteed to please everyone — young/old, rich/poor, and black/white. Part opera, part country, part choral, part instrumental, part camp, part patriotic; all spectacle.
Joining the GSO was a host of celebrities and entertainers including MCs Neill McNeill and Julie Luck from Fox 8 News, special guest artists Metropolitan Opera star and High Point native Anthony Dean Griffey, and local country music singer Lisa Dames. Add the Summit Figure Skating Club, 7th grade singer Nicholas Kent Relos, the Choral Society of Greensboro, bagpiper Sir Robert Bell, and a special visit from Santa Claus, and you have an evening designed to delight.
The purpose of the concert, besides bringing the community together for holiday cheer, was to fill the coffers of the Salvation Army’s food bank. Admission and parking were free with a donation of non-perishable food. So far this year, nearly 600,000 cans have been donated, and with subsequent holiday concerts scheduled in Winston-Salem and Burlington, the holiday drive should offer some substantial succor to those in need in this especially difficult time.
The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra provided the glue that held the evening together, offering fine orchestral renditions of “Star Spangled Banner,” and the “Armed Forces Medley” (led by guest conductor Bill Flynn) as well as background music and accompaniment to the ice-skating and singing. At the podium was GSO Resident Conductor and Choral Society Director Bruce Kiesling, who did a great job of holding the entire show together — alternating conducting with chatting with the audience.
Anthony Dean Griffey lent his strong tenor voice in “Do You Hear What I Hear?” in a version that included background vocals by the Choral Society, all accompanied by the GSO. A more tender voice was found in Griffey’s singing of “Mary’s Boy Child.” Perhaps the high point of the evening was his performance of “O Holy Night.” This singer has dynamite high notes, and this listener eagerly anticipated every one. I was never let down.
Lisa Dames sang a foot stompin’, hand clappin’, shouty version of “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).” She’s a dynamic performer, with a great vocal timbre and stage presence to match.
Nicholas Kent Relos did a fine job of singing the fun “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” This young singer is no novice to the stage, as was obvious by his infectious singing and interaction with Santa.
All three — Griffey, Dames and Relos — helped lead the audience in a medley of Christmas carols including “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night, Holy Night,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” There is nothing quite as exciting as joining opera, country, and child singers and 15,000 of your neighbors in the singing of these classics.
The Summit Figure Skating Club skated several delightfully choreographed numbers including “”Bring a torch Jeannette Isabella,” “It Happened in Sun Valley,” and “Polar Express.” One of the highlights of the skating portion was when Haley Dunne skated, and the audience cheered — all videotaped to aid in a bid to bring the 2011 national figure skating competition in Greensboro.
The Choral Society of Greensboro was put front and center for the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. This was a robust and rewarding performance.
The evening closed with the distinctive sounds of the bagpipes. Sir Robert Bell, gently accompanied by the GSO, provided a haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace.”