I have heard about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Spectacular Concerts for years, so when I was asked to review this year’s, I was beyond excited. So often we build up expectations – especially around iconic events like this one – and are so frequently a little let down. Thankfully, this is one Baltimore Holiday Tradition that actually exceeded my expectations! This was one of those concerts I’ll remember for quite some time. I was treated to an evening’s worth of outstanding, and at times brilliant, music in a dizzying variety of styles.
It was just grand.
The concert began with a lively rendition of the classic “Deck the Hall.” Fun fact: it really is Deck the Hall not Halls. Only one hall. Who knew? Conductor Andy Einhorn – he of Broadway as well as many a BSO concert – fame, was just chock full of trivia like that over the course of the evening. Did you know that the original title of “Jingle Bells” was “One Horse Open Sleigh”? Neither did I. As entertaining a conductor as ever there was, he swooped and swayed, punctuating the score of piece after piece with his definitive and distinctive conducting style.
Joined by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society for the evening, both the symphony and the wonderfully talented singers were in perfect sync the entire evening. Our very own world-class artists who comprise the BSO were in fine form all evening. In every song, they performed with the solid expertise for which they are so respected. The fine singers of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society did a sturdy job supporting the holiday standards like “Joy to the World” and “The Very Best Time of the Year.”
The orchestra was never more lovely and poignant than in their achingly beautiful rendition of “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night.) And showing their innovative best side yet again on a terrifically syncopated and inclusive version of “Little Bolero Boy” (Little Drummer Boy), they included a drumming chorus of local youth playing makeshift drum circle percussion instruments. A definite crowd pleaser.
The first half of the show wrapped up with the highly anticipated and much celebrated Tap Dancing Santas, featuring the dancers of the Centre Pointe Performing Arts. With excellent, Rockettes inspired choreography by Jennifer Ladner, energetically performed by the large group, this was one of the absolute highlights of the evening that left the entire auditorium with a huge grin on our collective faces.
It’s a close call given the high bar set by the first half of the concert, but the second half was even better. Local vocal phenom Jerimiah Lloyd Harmon was in perfect voice and oh! What a voice! This guy has had me in his corner since making it into the Top 10 on last seasons American Idol. His first number, and original from his upcoming debut album titled, “Almost Heaven” was pure joy, beautifully arranged with the orchestra backing him up with the help of Harmon’s own bass player. He followed that up with the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” equally impressive. His soaring tenor seemingly has no limit, his distinctive timbre instantly recognizable and absolutely perfectly pitched.
It’s especially gratifying to see not one, but TWO of our local boys make good in the same concert. BSO bassist Jonathan Jensen is an accomplished composer in his own right. His original composition, an ode to Baltimore’s world-famous 34th Street, the eponymously named piece was an absolute delight. Sung by Mr. Einhorn (the conductor was a surprisingly very good singer!) and Harmon, the song was reminiscent of some of Irving Berlin’s best work, bringing to mind adjectives, like catchy, peppy, happy – and, well, you get the picture. It was an earworm inducing grand time.
The entire concert can actually be summed up that way, so I will. It was just grand. Seldom heard arrangements of standard holiday fare, all of it performed by staggeringly accomplished artists, during one number it even snowed! The evening concluded with one of the most original renditions of “O Holy Night,” sung by Harmon, that left the audience first in tears from its beauty, then cheering wildly. It was, as the title of the evening suggested, nothing less than Spectacular. I’ve missed this concert by the BSO and their special guests in the past. I am going to try my level best to never miss another!
“BSO Holiday Spectacular” was performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, MD, on December 21st, 2019.