Review: Holiday Pops with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops
Photo from Julie Goetz.

To have an impact, cultural institutions must be accessible to everyone. That’s why Laura and Sarah head off to review so many performances, plays, and programs. I hope you enjoy this one. ~ Sue

I can’t remember when I started going to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops concert…maybe 5 years ago? Nevertheless, it has become one of my favorite holiday traditions. Unlike Handel’s Messiah, which was more somber and reflective, the pops concert is all things shiny. Brightly lit Christmas trees, wreaths and other holiday decorations line Heinz Hall and the atmosphere is jovial and relaxed. Although I no longer attend church, one of the things I miss most about it are the Christmas carols/hymns, and this concert is a good way for me to hear both the sacred and the secular. In this version of the symphony, there are the horns, the drums and the woodwinds and the full sound of the symphony is powerful. 

Blaine Allen Krauss. Image via Julie Goetz.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh also sang during the Pops concert, along with featured soloist Blaine Allen Krauss, who is a standby in Hamilton for both Hamilton and Burr. He was very dapper dressed all in black. He lent his soulful voice for several songs including “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Little Drummer Boy” and “GoTell it on the Mountain.” 

The evening began with the symphony playing Merry Christmas from the Home Alone movie and then the symphony played “A Christmas Festival,” which included instrumental versions of Joy to the World (one of my favorites),  Deck the Hall, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hark the Herald Angels sing, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Oh Come all Ye Faithful and Good King Wenceslaus.

Dancers from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School graced the stage with their elegance while they performed selections from the Nutcracker Suite         

And who could forget Santa Klaus, he made his appearance for several songs,  Ho! Ho! Ho! from “A Christmas Wish,” and “Presents from Santa.” During his appearance Santa threw candy into the crowd (none of it reached us) and asked several little kids what they wanted for Christmas. One little boy said he wanted a Maserati. I mean, it’s Santa, why not go for broke right?  

I should add that right before Santa came onto the stage, the orchestra played “Sleigh Ride.” I know, I know, this song can be played to death during the holiday season, however, this song is  absolutely splendid when played by a live orchestra,

Finally, the orchestra played a song written for Hanukah called “Of Lights and Lights,” which brought a middle eastern flair to the program. And, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. The conductor for the evening, Daniel Meyer, helpfully explained why it’s tradition to stand for this number (it’s because the King stood when this section of Handel’s Messiah played, so when the King stands….).  

Mr. Meyer made jokes and had a warm, friendly connection with the audience. 

At the very end was the sing along and, even though I can’t carry a tune, I couldn’t help but silently join in. It’s surprising to me after all these years that I know all the words to these carols/hymns and that I am still moved to hear them and sing them. 

This is a great concert and I encourage you to make this a part of YOUR holiday tradition.  

The Holiday Pops continue through Sunday, December 18, 2022. Tickets are still available starting at $22.00. This includes a Sensory Friendly Holiday Pops on Saturday, December 17 at 2:30PM.


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