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The Concert Singers of Cary and the Triangle Wind Ensemble joined forces for their annual holiday pops program at the Herbert Young Community Center on Saturday night. There was a pretty good audience with several young people soaking up the excitement and joy of the music. The community center is basically a gymnasium with a plastic tarp protecting the flour, thus making for a pretty lively sound.
The program opened with "Gloria" by Randol Alan Bass. Bass was a student of John Williams, the movie composer and former conductor of the Boston Pops, and the influence of his teacher's style was obvious in the four pieces or arrangements by him on this program. Obviously Bass is a popular composer of wind ensemble and choral music. "Gloria," conducted by Lawrence J. Speakman, Director of the Concert Singers of Cary, was a most appropriate opener and set the mood for the evening. It began with some Star Wars-like fanfares, developed through a syncopated declamation of glorias that led to a hymn-like but more developed middle section, then back to the syncopated glorias and ending with a majestic flourish. It was apparent that the chorus and wind ensemble would make full use of the lively ambience that enhanced the blend of the voices and instruments.
Robert C, Hunter, Director of the Triangle Wind Ensemble, came to the podium next and led the band in a piece of music that allowed them to show off the wide range of sound they have mastered in their repertoire. J. S. Bach's Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, S. 564 originally composed for organ, was arranged for wind ensemble by Paynter, and it allowed them to play light, baroque themes, mellow chorales, and cheerful and playful flights of melody including the rather prankish coda at the end. Many in the pops-oriented audience wanted to applaud at the pauses between the three sections of the piece and generously showed appreciation at the end.
Next, guest artist David Ballantyne, host of "Rise and Shine" on WCPE, "The Classical Station," was given the opportunity to demonstrate his theatre background as narrator in the Bass arrangement of Clement Moore's Christmas icon, "'Twas the Night before Christmas." Ballantyne was in turn impish, excited, awed and joyful in his reading of the poem, and it was the hit of the evening, drawing sustained and enthusiastic applause.
There was a mellow arrangement of Mel Tormé's "Christmas Song," always a special favorite. Then "Christmas Flourish," another arrangement by Bass of four well-known Christmas hymns or carols, continued to invite the audience to relish the sounds and meanings of the season. Soprano Leslie Alger's rendition of "Silent Night" was a quiet and meditative moment. This was followed by the obligatory audience sing-a-long, a handful of familiar tunes that attracted moderate participation and added more to the spirit of the season.
TWE performed "Eighth Candle" by Steve Reistetter, a celebration of the lighting of the last candle of Chanukah. It is a very nice piece beginning with a richly harmonized prayer and ending with a dance typical of the infectious joy of Chanukah.
The next selection was another fine arrangement by Bass, in fact specially arranged at the request of Speakman and Hunter for this performance. It included four of the commercial hit tunes of the season. You know, the ones about Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty, ending with "Jingle Bells."
Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" wound up the evening just right. The concert was a perfect inauguration of the season of joy — just enough to instill the spirit, not so long as to overly tax the young ones. The performances by both the Concert Singers and the Wind Ensemble were outstanding. Hunter and Speakman and all involved are to be commended for providing this delightful evening for the community.