Denzel Sinclair.

Holiday Pops

Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Denzal Sinclaire, vocal soloist

A review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

Just as soon as one can create 101 uses for leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, our Louisville Orchestra Pops series helps us to usher in another festive part of the Holiday season.

In true Bob Bernhardt fashion, the musical selections were filled with melodies and familiar tunes that often bring about memories of our youth and hope for our futures, such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker and Alan Silvestri’s Suite from The Polar Express, all expertly performed by our Louisville Orchestra. 

The evening began with Leroy Anderson’s always-fun-to-hear Sleigh Ride. From the jingle of the bells (although I believe they started off a half-beat late) to the sound of the clapboard down to the “winny” of the horse provided by the trombone, it is a great piece to showcase this time of year.

Luckily for us, Bob came to us with a few gifts of his own to share, such as our guest artist Denzal Sinclaire. Hailing from Canada, Mr. Sinclaire’s singing has been compared to that of the great Nat King Cole. I could definitely hear a similar timbre, but, make no mistake, Sinclaire performs his music in his own way. 

Performing standards such as What Child is This, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Sinclaire stayed pretty close to the standard scribblings, but with a bit of flourish and orchestral ornamentation. Sinclaire’s singing is savvy but he is also a talented arranger. His takes on Silent Night and We Three Kings certainly gave a jazzy edge to the ol’ chestnuts. 

Aside from Mr. Sinclaire being a gift of the evening, we also got to unwrap music that is not often played and music that is rather new. Beginning with Georges Bizet’s Farandole from incidental music that was composed for French writer

’s play L’Arlesienne. As we are more familiar with Bizet through an operatic lens, it was a special treat to hear a less common piece in the orchestral repertoire. Another gift was the new to me Hanukkah Festival Overture by Lucas Richman, I can share that it absolutely embraced the sounds, including The Dreidel Song, which is commonly heard this time of year. In fact, the klezmer feeling from the woods and winds almost had our musicians dancing in their seats. Another new to me piece was Devlyn Case’s Rocket Sleigh, to which Mr. Bernhardt shared something to the point of “….imagine Santa and NASA.” Upon listening it would have been a fabulous piece to accompany a certain scene in the movie Elf. If you’ve seen the movie, you will know what I’m referring to.

Mr. Bernhardt shared with the audience that in preparing for his concerts there is a caveat that must be adhered to: he always selects one piece just for himself. His choice for the evening came in the form of Robert Wendel’s Christmas á la Valse. This clever suite includes excerpts of familiar Christmastime songs that are all in 3/4ths time….the same as a waltz. Away in a Manger, Silver Bells, and The First Noel are but a small sampling of the music that could be found within the Suite.

Before the evening concluded with a fun and enjoyable audience participation singalong with our guest vocalist, Santa Claus (yes boys and girls, he came down to have a joke out with our Maestro) and the Louisville Orchestra, Mr. Barnhardt wanted to share a tribute to the late Jim Rago who masterfully reigned over the percussion section, principally the timpani, for over 50 years before his passing earlier this year. So, in his honor, our musicians performed Little Drummer Boy with full heart and emotion over the loss of their artistic brother, Jim. Not a single misplaced note or rest.

As our voices and the instruments blended together during the sing-a-long it was a wonderful way to get the holiday season into full swing.

Happy Holidays and Bravi Tutti!!

Holiday Pops

November 26, 2022

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Performing Arts
501 West 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.