Home for the Holidays
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
LaKisha Jones, vocalist
Louisville Youth Choir, Terri Foster, Artistic/Executive Director
Review by Shaun Kenney
Entire contents are copyright © 2018, Shaun Kenney. All rights reserved.
I’ll just come out and say it. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I love the lights, the time spent with family, the food, but I especially love the music. Tonight the Louisville Orchestra, along with the Louisville Youth Choir, conductor Bob Bernhardt, and soloist LaKisha Jones provided the ideal kick-start to my holiday season. Music has always been an integral part of my holiday. “Alexa, play some Christmas music” is a phrase you hear quite often in my home this time of year. It may seem early to some but Thanksgiving weekend is the official start of the Christmas season in my house. We come home after stuffing ourselves with Turk’y (yes, the apostrophe is supposed to be there…we are vegetarians), crack open a bottle of Georges Dubœuf Beaujolais Nouveau (available only during this time of year), and start the process of decorating the house for Christmas. I call it a process only because we have a ton of decorations and it can take a while to get everything set up but it is one of my favorite things to do and genuinely puts me in the holiday spirit. The Louisville Orchestra’s Home for the Holidays concert is a perfect addition to the season and will definitely become a tradition for years to come.
The selection of music tonight was spot on, a mix of traditional and modern, vocal and instrumental, lively and solemn. Bob Bernhardt started the evening off with Christmas Festival, a medley of traditional carols arranged by Leroy Anderson. This was a superb way to open the concert. It’s a very energetic piece and it gives all the sections of the orchestra a chance to shine. When I was in high school band we played an arrangement of this work at every one of our holiday concerts. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic upon hearing it. To me, that’s the beautiful thing about music. It can elicit memories and emotions I haven’t thought of or felt in years. Just after hearing a few notes I’m transported back to my teenage years in Maine, bundling up and grabbing my horn and meeting my fellow “band geeks” to play brass ensemble arrangements of carols on a downtown street corner, singing Christmas Eve mass with my church choir, and spending the holiday at my grandparent’s house with my many aunts, uncles, and cousins. All this just after the first song on the program! Other instrumental pieces included selections from The Nutcracker, Sleigh Ride (another Leroy Anderson arrangement), and a suite from It’s a Wonderful Life. As usual, the orchestra was flawless.
The Louisville Youth Choir joined the orchestra for several pieces lending the clear tone of young voices to selections from The Polar Express and Home Alone, as well as Three Chanukah Songs arranged by Bruce Healey, and Star Carol, an original work by John Rutter. The choir was at least 100 strong and their performance was lovely. I particularly enjoyed the Rutter but I am a bit of an anglophile so that’s no surprise. There was another work by Rutter listed in the program that wasn’t performed, I’m assuming for reasons of timing.
The highlight of the evening for me was the soloist, LaKisha Jones. Ms. Jones first came to the limelight as a top-four finalist in the 2007 season of American Idol. Since then she has found success on Broadway and has been a featured soloist with symphonies from around the world. How lucky we were to have her join the Louisville Orchestra for this holiday concert. Her voice is big and rich and suited the music perfectly. Each time she was on stage her presence and voice filled the room and captivated the audience. It is clear why she has been so successful in her career. She is a stellar artist with a voice made for a large concert hall. Her first selection, Mary Did You Know by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry, was hauntingly beautiful and left me with cold chills. I was also impressed by her performance of “Home” from The Wiz, which isn’t technically a holiday song but did fit perfectly into the theme of the program.
The concert ended with a Christmas carol singalong and I can’t think of a better way to close out the evening. People of all ages, religions, and backgrounds raising their voices as one with a beautiful orchestral accompaniment. I left with high spirits and a smile on my face, ready for the holiday season.
Home for the Holidays
November 24, 2018
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Shaun Kenney studied Music Education and Instrumental at Campbellsville University. In Louisville, he has worked with Finnigan Productions since its inception, as Stage Manager, Sound Designer, and Director.