Review: Asheville Symphony Holiday Pops

For anyone who’s been considering classical music but finds the prospect of a symphony concert a little intimidating,the Sunday, Dec. 16, Asheville Symphony Holiday Pops performance was a great place to start.

The 3 p.m. concert opened with a bevy of holiday classics, including “Frosty the Snowman” and “Here Comes Santa Claus,” numbers aimed at the large number of children in the audience. There was also the requisite performance of “Sleigh Ride,” which — despite its near constant circulation on holiday music radio stations — is so perfect when played by a symphony. And the Asheville Symphony, though certainly less than challenged by these well-thumbed carols, carried each number off with polish and humor.

The orchestra was joined on stage by stage by the Asheville Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Dewitt Tipton — the number of those on stage rivaling that of the near full-capacity audience. The chorus accompanied the orchestra, the Asheville Symphony Children’s Orchestra, and soloists Alison Trainer andWilliam Martin.

It was probably the Children’s Chorus that drew such a large elementary-aged crowd (most of them dressed to the nines in velvet dresses and tidy little sweater vests). That, and a visit from an exceedingly talkative Santa Claus. It was far from the Symphony’s most somber and serious of performances, but the mood was festive and the once-a-year trillings of classics like “It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas” was well-received.

Personally, my favorite parts of the concert were the two numbers featuring soprano Alison Trainer. Trainer’s angelic voice transformed both “Maria Wiegenlied” and “Rejoice Greatly” from Handel’s Messiah, casting a hauntingly lovely hush over the audience. For me, it’s those goose-flesh-inducing moments that make classical music so rewarding.

Conductor Daniel Meyer is also a great reason to take in the symphony. He brings such exuberance to the performance and shares a palpable chemistry with the musicians. His easy dialog with the audience puts the listener at ease, introducing each piece with an interesting fact or brief description.

The afternoon culminated with a Santa-led sing-a-long — perfect for the seasonal sweater set. While I was left wanting more Messiah and Greensleeves and a bit less “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” my Christmas music craving was sated and I’m definitely looking forward to February’s Valentine’s Viennese Romance concert.

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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