Soprano Lisa Vroman. Photo by Michael Blank.

Home For The Holidays

The Louisville Orchestra with The Louisville Youth Choir

Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Soprano Lisa Vroman and Tenor Doug LaBrecque, guest soloists

Review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

It was a Saturday night and you were probably still recuperating from the hustle and bustle of a whirlwind Thanksgiving weekend and needed a break. As luck would have it, The Louisville Orchestra Pops Series offered up a delightful beginning to the holiday season in their concert, Home for the Holidays.

Under the baton of Bob Bernhardt with special guests Lisa Vroman and Doug LaBrecque and the Louisville Youth Choir, the audience was treated to holiday standards and newer pieces that have become part of the seasonal musical tapestry within the past 25 years.

The evening began with a lovely orchestral work from Robert Wendel titled “Christmas à la Waltz”. This was a new piece to my ears and it was charming and had a great energy that helped to light the way for the evening’s entertainment. Not to mention, the middle strings had some of the most sumptuous harmony lines to ever catch my ear and had me wrapped in their spell.

As I mentioned, the program had standards that we have all grown up with and hear this time of year, but, if you thought these pieces were going to be the same arrangements heard time and time again, you were in for a surprise. Guest soloist Doug LaBrecque, who has performed on stages all over the world including Broadway with turns as Ravenal from Showboat and The Phantom and Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, delighted us with some of his own arrangements of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and his “O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah” almost made the audience want to get up and dance the Hora with him.

Lisa Vroman, who has graced both the opera stage and Broadway, most notably as ingénue Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, treated us to some of the more classical pieces of the evening, including Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Adolphe Adam/Placide Cappeau’s “O Holy Night”. While I did not care for the added ending on “Ave”, Ms. Vroman certainly demonstrated why she is invited to grace many stages with her instrument. However, later in the evening, she performed “O Holy Night”, the last section was not well supported and did not end with the vocal flourish that I had anticipated.

One of the departures from the norm was a rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that had me thinking that it was arranged for the late Elvis Presley. It was like Elvis meets Musical Theater meets Church Revival and it was fun and sung handsomely. The other departure was a musical arrangement from Randol Alan Bass of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” performed in tandem with Mr. LaBrecque reading the poem in a comfy leather chair. Maestro Bernhardt likened the piece to Classical meets E.T. He wasn’t kidding. Throughout the performance, I couldn’t help but not hear themes that I’ve heard in other pieces, including pieces by John Williams. I really enjoyed it.

Speaking of John Williams, Maestro Bernhardt performed his “Somewhere in My Memory” and “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” made famous by the movie Home Alone.

The Louisville Youth Choir led by Terri E. Foster was an absolute treat and enhanced the whole of the evening a hundredfold. Their energy and exuberance lit up the stage and charged everyone up.

The evening ended with a fun sing-a-long that included classics like “Away in a Manger” and “Deck the Halls”. What a lovely sound to hear when a chorus of voices from all areas of Whitney Hall joins the musicians and singers on stage to create a moment of unity and jubilance.

Our Louisville Orchestra and their guests certainly graced us with a wonderful start to the Holiday season with this concert. So, dear reader, Happy Holidays!!

P.S. It would not be a Bob Bernhardt-led concert without a joke or two, so allow me to share one: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a shark? – Frost Bite. Goodnight everybody.

Bravi Tutti!!!

Home For The Holidays

November 25, 2017

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
Whitney Hall
501 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202


Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.