Orchestra, Martin, chorus combine for holiday gems

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By David Hendricks

December 17, 2016

Mezzo-soprano opera star Catherine Martin, a San Antonio native, performed for the San Antonio Symphony’s Christmas Pops concert this weekend.

It snowed Friday night at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts — at least soap-bubble flakes were flying off the roof.

But the annual popular San Antonio Symphony Holiday Pops concert inside covered far more ground for the near-capacity audience of about 1,500 people.

Global mezzo-soprano star Catherine Martin, the Mastersingers, a wide-ranging program and Santa Claus combined for a “Wonderful Life” evening of music for the audience, which also joined in the music-making with a sing-along of carols.

A highlight was a suite from Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for the famous holiday-themed movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” some of which was not used in the film. The orchestra, Martin and the Mastersingers joined for an “Auld Lang Syne” to remember, recalling the movie’s Christmas Eve finale.

Martin, a San Antonio native, presented the program’s serious, classical side with the J.S. Bach/Charles Gounod “Ave Maria” and César Franck’s “Panis angelicus,” her operatic-trained voice ringing beautifully bright and clear.

The concert started strongly, though, with a “Joy to the World” blast from the Mastersingers in a Leroy Anderson medley of Christmas music.

The orchestra and choir later toured South America with a package of carols from Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela, the last a snazzy, syncopated number.

Shifting gears, the orchestra performed Katherine Davis’ clever “Little Bolero Boy,” following Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” format, only with “The Little Drummer Boy” melody repeated by various symphonic voices.

The mood lightened with a creative arrangement of José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” The Mastersingers dueled with the orchestra in jazzy presentations, the 120 singers, led by director John Silantien, flashing their hands while singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The orchestra answered with a Charleston-dance version of holiday themes.

Santa Claus entered the hall during the sing-along, and helped conclude the concert by playing a key instrument during the ever-delightful traditional program-ending “Sleigh Ride” by Anderson.

The program repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tobin Center downtown.

dhendricks@express-news.net