By Anthony Rodgers
Mon, Dec 12, 2016
Now in its 58th consecutive season, the Kansas City Civic Orchestra is a staple of the community music scene in the greater KC area, and their annual holiday concert series is no exception. Under the direction of Michael Mapp, the volunteer orchestra performed the greatest hits of the season with energizing holiday spirit.
During his spoken introductions to tunes, Mapp placed a lot of emphasis on the popularity of crooners with regard to Christmas classics, and I personally couldn’t help but hear the low, soothing voices of Bing Crosby and Dean Martin in my mind, accompanied by the orchestra playing some of my favorite holiday songs. Not all of the pieces were standard arrangements, however. A Latin-influenced version of Let It Snow was an exciting variation that even appeared to entertain the performers on the night reviewed. Still, the typical sounds of the holiday pops orchestra prevailed, including ringing chimes in The Christmas Songand lush string melodies in White Christmas. And in the true spirit of giving, even the trombones were allowed to join in the melody during Silver Bells.
In general, the orchestra did not do much with dynamics throughout the concert, staying at a safe mezzoforte level through most of the pieces; most of the changes in sound came from shifts in timbre and instrumentation. Some diversity of volume would have greatly enhanced the overall performance, particularly with the Hollywood ending of White Christmas.
A guest conductor—the winner of a recent auction—took the ensemble on a rousing Sleigh Ride with driving sleigh bells, whip cracks, and a whinnying trumpet to the audience’s delight.
A Bill Holcombe arrangement, Festive Sounds of Hanukkah had some tuning issues in sustained open intervals that didn’t resolve quickly enough, but the group finished strong with this Hanukkah medley. Although there were some distracting issues with tuning and rhythmic integrity during I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the number did not lose its sense of duty as it was dedicated to soldiers and loved ones unable to be home for the holidays. A sing-along portion was nothing short of fun. The orchestra provided a solid foundation for the audience-chorus during selections including O Tannenbaum and We Three Kings, which was a brave choice due to the traditionally long-held fermatas. Opting for a subtler departure, the warming sounds of the strings closed with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
While this program may not have musically challenged the players of this volunteer orchestra, the evening was nonetheless a delight for those in attendance, being a part of a Kansas City tradition with the KC Civic Orchestra.
Kansas City Civic Orchestra
Sounds of the Season
December 9–10 (Reviewed Friday, December 9, 2016)
Atonement Lutheran Church
9948 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS