|Photo swiped from the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble|
All this happened Friday evening at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall, in the widely varied, charming and entertaining 2013 edition of the MSO Holiday Pops spectacular.
Chafetz didn't have to say that he was thrilled to be there, as he was clearly having more fun than Santa's Elves on Dec. 26. His good cheer spread from the stage into the packed house, and I suspect it lifted the spirits of those on stage, too. This isn't Mahler; it's supposed to be fun to play as well as to hear.
Chafetz opened with "We Need a Little Christmas," in a nifty arrangement by Robert Wendell. The two children's choirs, perched mostly in unison on the melody as the adult choir harmonized, gave the tune a bright edge of innocence.
|Stuart Chafetz. Photo courtesy of the MSO.|
That pegged Eldred as a post-Sinatra swing guy, but he's more than that. He showed off a well-trained tenor in rendering "O Holy Night" on the cusp of classical style, and he crooned "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with touching intimacy.
The players of the MSO, given the bad news about the financial predicament and retrenchment that came out this week, had every reason to be Grinchy. But being the pros they are, they appeared to let it all go and played with a lot of energy. I liked the twinkle lights that festooned the bassoons. As former horn principal Bill Barnewitz once said, "You don't work music -- you play music." The MSO made it sound like fun despite everything.
|Mike Eldred. Photo courtesy of the |
But they all wore big smiles as they filed downstage -- vamping all the way -- for their big unaccompanied number, a combination of "Good King Wenceslaus" and "In the Bleak Midwinter." They played from memory, which makes more sense that trying to read, and treated it as a fun group activity, almost like a game. The body language and eye contact that conveyed cues and timing, along with their obvious delight in the doing, made it as charming to watch as to hear.
Their joy in making music together distilled the spirit of this concert and the spirit of the season. Attend one of the repeat performances, at 8 p.m. Saturday or 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and you'll get the urge to pull those strings of lights out of the basement and get them on the house.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
More striniwrites music reviews: Frankly Music, Present Music Thanksgiving, MSO Schubert Mass.
Saturday's striniwrites review event: Early Music Now presents the Waverly Consort.
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