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Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/John Morris Russell (Conductor): Home for the Holidays *

Track List

>Deck the Halls
>O Holy Night
>We Three Kings
>I Believe
>Jolly Old St. Nicholas / Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
>Angel's Dance
>Home for the Holidays
>Go Tell it on the Mountain
>Ave Maria
>L'Arlesienne: Farandole
>Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus (Nimrod from Enigma Variations)
>Sleigh Ride
>A Winter Miracle (Winter/Hanukkah O Hanukkah)
>Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
>We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

With over 10 million recordings sold around the world, no orchestra has had more albums on the Billboard charts than the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra! Home for the Holidays is the culmination of a year-long celebration of the inaugural season of Pops Conductor John Morris Russell. Featuring an exceptionally diverse collection of Yuletide classics including "Deck the Halls," "O Holy Night" with powerhouse tenor Rodrick Dixon, and New York Voices' jazzy twist on "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," alongside Gounod's "Ave Maria" and "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," which cleverly combines Edward Elgar's "Nimrod" from Enigma Variations with text from an 1897 editorial in the New York Sun, narrated by Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell expressing the child-like wonderment felt during the holiday season.

Album Notes

Liner Note Author: John Morris Russell .

Recording information: Brorby Studios, Brooklyn, NY (03/13/2012); Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio (03/13/2012); Brorby Studios, Brooklyn, NY (12/12/2011); Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio (12/12/2011).

Editors: Michael Bishop ; Thomas C. Moore .

Home for the Holidays offers familiar Christmas music in light classical and easy listening arrangements, performed with festive cheer by John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Featured performers include tenor Rodrick Dixon, violinists Timothy Lees and Gabriel Pegis, and pianist Julie Spangler, and the orchestra is joined by the May Festival Chorus and the Winton Woods High School Varsity Ensemble, so there is a fairly wide variety of vocal, choral, and instrumental settings of these perennial favorites. The scoring of the orchestra is quite lush and warm, typical of pops fare, and the overall moods of the CD are sweet, sentimental, and nostalgic, reminiscent of many commercial holiday albums that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Because this package is unpretentious and relaxed in atmosphere, it will appeal to casual listeners and find a practical use as background music for Christmas parties. But be sure to adjust the volume to a comfortable level for home listening, because the music is sometimes big and brassy. ~ Blair Sanderson


Holiday Pops, with snap and crackle
John Morris Russell's first recording as conductor of the Cincinnati Pops is a seasonal collection of many of the usual suspects, with the orchestra joined by two choruses and the New York Voices. Tenor Rodrick Dixon delivers a thrilling "O Holy Night" that should have been placed near the end of the program to serve as its climax, instead of being its second track. Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell doesn't sing, but reads the famous "Yes, Virginia" editorial to the accompaniment of Elgar's "Nimrod." Yes, Virginia, it's heavy-handed and sentimental, and few will reach the end with a dry eye. The orchestra's instrumental soloists are also featured, in a new arrangement of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" (piano) and in a clever blending of Vivaldi's "Winter" and "O Hanukkah" (violin). Good playing, good sound, good fun. Total timing of the disc is less than an hour, but it never wears out its welcome, which is more than can be said for some holiday guests.
Submitted on 11/06/12 by Jim D. 
Holiday Heartfelt Harmony Heralds Hearth and Home
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, choruses, and soloists present a holiday album of familiar, feel-good songs and performances for the Christmas season just around the corner. John Morris Russell, recently arrived from the Windsor Symphony, conducts for his first CinPops recording this seasonal program for sing-a-long and background for the holidays.

The bulk of this recording may be a concert, as the songs progress in a style to please a casual audience. Other songs were added to the CD production in early 2012. The tenor soloist, well-regarded and heralded, unfortunately has an insistent vibrato which detracts from the songs so enthusiastically presented. The grittiness is enough to move away from the solo and on to the next track in the program.

The New York Voices, May Festival Chorus, and Winton Woods Ensemble seem energetic, comfortable with their blend of voices, and very familiar with the songs, perhaps encouraging the audience to sing along. Vivaldi’s Winter with familiar carols interspersed is an interesting touch, inviting the audience to sit up and take notice when attention wanders. Surely many appreciate the “Yes, Virginia” reading—and wonder if it is an annual standard for the holiday concert. The snare drum reasserts itself frequently enough to make the listener question whether the microphones were too close to the percussion section. Updated design for both the cover and conductor’s picture would enhance the marketing appeal of this CD.

This pleasant and enthusiastic program aims to warm the holiday spirit. In person it may be “just the thing” to liven up the holidays, perhaps with a little Midwestern December snowfall outside. It could be a nice addition for background music at a Christmas party—but there are many such albums available. While enjoyable, this album lacks a “wow” factor expected from the repertoire of the Cincinnati Pops.

Submitted on 11/15/12 by howsweetthesound 
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