A First Noel

Rehearsals for the 25th Annual Clayton Holiday Concert were fairly intense. My wife sings with the Knoxville Choral Society and she was happy that Friday night’s show was a good performance. There was so much new material to cover that there wasn’t much time to practice the songs that get repeated every year. The opening night success bodes well for the two shows on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The male members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra were dressed in white dinner jackets. The women wore white blouses. Maestro Lucas Richman wanted the colors of stage lights to play off the musicians’ clothes. The dinner jackets helped give the show the atmosphere of a pops show as opposed to a classical concert.

I already knew I would love the opening number, “Christmas Festival Overture” by Leroy Anderson. It contains a mashup of “Jingle Bells” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” that chokes me up every time. The piece that opened the second half was an impressive and pleasant surprise. Maestro Richman asked third hornist Mark Harrell to arrange a medley of “English Carols.” The world premiere of his composition was Friday night and I hope it becomes an annual tradition at the concert.

Twelve dancers from Go! Contemporary Dance Works represented “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Their presence made the song fun. Normally, I find that song boring and repetitive but not last night.

Logan Murrell sounded especially good on “Christmas in Dixie,” which she sang as a duet with her mentor Jim Clayton. Logan sang solo on “Tennessee Christmas” and “O Holy Night,” using the same Martina McBride arrangement as she did five years ago at the 20th annual concert. Solid vocal performances were also turned in by Sound Company and Hallerin Hill. I like seeing the older kids in Sound Company join with the Choral Society for the “Hallelujah Chorus” and the Christmas sing-along.

The opus that received the extra focus during the Choral Society’s rehearsals was another world premiere. Friday’s concert marked the first live performance of “A Symphony of Hope: the Haiti Project,” which captured the spirit of giving although it was not a Christmas composition. It was created by a group of film composers as a fundraiser for victims of the 2009 earthquake. This past March, Lucas Richman conducted the studio recording of the symphony on the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. in Burbank. Richman signed copies of the CD after the show.

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