By Amy A. Winnemore
With twinkling lights, classic Christmas carols and even a visit from Santa, the audience was swept up in the holiday spirit watching “A Philly Pops Christmas Spectacular Sounds of the Season” last weekend at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
Music Director Maestro Michael Krajewski conducted the sensational show featuring over 300 musicians and singers, including the 65-piece Pops orchestra, guest vocalist Justin Hopkins, organist Peter Richard Conte, the Philly POPS Festival Chorus, the Philadelphia Boys Choir and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir.
The Pops sounded exquisite as they performed amongst the twinkling trees on the stage and sparkling lighted snowflakes above.
Hopkins’s booming bass baritone voice was perfect as he narrated “The Grinch Medley.” Describing the furry, green, grumpy recluse living above the town of Whoville (on Mount Crumpet) , Hopkins was superb as he sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” It was as if we were listening to Thurl Ravenscroft from the 1966 classic cartoon. It was a wonderful treat watching Hopkins, who was born and raised in Philadelphia and was a member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir and chorale from 1993-2002. Hopkins, sporting a seasonal red bow-tie paired with a dark suit, joined the Boys Choir in a splendid rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Before the POPS performed “Sleigh Ride,” Krajewski gave a very amusing and thorough explanation on how to properly use the only instrument he can play, “the whip.” The audience was laughing throughout his deadpanned comedy bit including the parts where he explained how to breathe, stand and follow-through while playing his ‘family heirloom’. (It’s funnier when you see it live.)
Another highlight was the amazing African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. Wearing brightly colored dresses and headwear for the women and robes for the men, the choir members’ exuberant joy of singing was evident as their beautiful voices filled the Kimmel Center. Led by Music Director Waltier Blocker, the choir performs at over 100 services, concerts and celebrations each year.
The “Merry Christmas Sing-Along,” with the audience joining in on “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” was the perfect ending to a magical show.
Running time: Approximately two and a half hours, including an intermission.