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REVIEW: Orchestra Iowa rings in season with 'Holiday Spectacular'

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Kelli Sutterman / Admin  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 3:47 pm   ::  

CEDAR RAPIDS — Orchestra Iowa’s “Holiday Spectacular” at the Paramount Theatre gives the community a spirited opportunity to celebrate.

The orchestra, along with the Cedar Rapids Concert Chorale, Discovery Chorus, Espressivo Springs from the Preucil School of Music, the Carillonneurs Handbell Choir,as well as a couple of actors, a soprano and a guest conductor provide the entertainment, and the entire audience is given the chance to sing along.

At the end of Act One, the orchestra, chorale, chorus and soprano Kimberly Roberts blend warmly in Adolph Adam’s “O Holy Night.” The performance Saturday afternoon (12/15/12) was soft and very well-balanced.

I sat upstairs for the first half, and downstairs for the second. The string section, and the Espressivo Strings, were much more alive downstairs, and had more “presence.”The Concert Chorale, seated in risers behind the orchestra, was at times hard to understand, which may be a matter of diction, and may be a matter of balance. It may also be that the theater is kinder to string players than to the sung or spoken word. But the jury is still out on that one.

My favorite piece was “Christmas Concerto,” by Arcangelo Corelli. The 16 teenagers that make up Espressivo Strings stood in front of the orchestra, with the boys in tuxedos and the girls in deep red satin. They sway together as they perform, not in a choreographed way, but in an honest expression of the music. Their musicianship lept off the stage, and the baroque music came alive in a deeply satisfying way. These young men and women are remarkably gifted, and obviously trained beautifully.

The audience particularly enjoyed “A Musicological Journey Through the 12 Days of Christmas.” Each of the sections is transcribed in a different musical mode, beginning with Gregorian Chants from medieval Europe, and ending with a rousing Sousa March. On the way, we visited the thunder of Wagner and a whirling waltz of Strauss, and even a bit of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” It is rare that we have this kind of fun in an orchestral setting, and the result is delightful.

This is a performance that requires you to leave your “stuffed shirt” at home, roll up your sleeves, and enjoy a couple of hours with some skilled music-makers. Bring the whole family along: they’ll have a fine time.

The show repeated Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday's performance at the Paramount starts at 2:30 p.m.

Related: Orchestra Iowa brings sounds of the season back to Paramount

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