It’s getting cooler outside but holiday program is hot
Do you ever hope for Arcticlike weather when attending a performing-arts event?
Somehow, a performance of “The Nutcracker” or a concert of holiday music just doesn’t work as well without snow on the ground or, at least, temperatures that call for overcoats, scarves and gloves.
The same goes for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra’s annual “Home for the Holidays,” which opened Wednesday and continues through Sunday at the Southern Theatre.
On Wednesday night, the weather was chilly but not bitter. No matter — the orchestra’s warm, rich playing convinced this reviewer that, baby, it really was cold outside.
Artistic Director Byron Stripling kicked off the concert with an orchestra-only set that included a moody interpretation of “White Christmas,” with stellar solos by Jim Powell on flugelhorn and Bobby Floyd on organ, and a fun, festive rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Stripling, a charismatic, easygoing host, knows how to set a mood with the right music selections.
Floyd returned to his main instrument, the piano, for his arrangement of “What Child Is This?” The pianist’s evocative, seemingly effortless playing was a highlight.
Midway through the first half, the high spirits of the orchestra were complemented by the high notes of soprano Peggy Dye. Also the director of Opera Columbus, Dye joined the orchestra for “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” which she augmented with passages from operatic staples such as Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro.”
Dye was especially expressive in her exactingly enunciated performance of “My Favorite Things” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” The soprano put the “crisp” in the “crisp apple strudels” referred to in the lyrics.
Following an intermission, vocalist David Pruyn was showcased on several songs. A strong but subtle singer with an appealing stage presence, Pruyn was heard to memorable effect on the hymn-like “Some Children See Him” and a zesty, zippy arrangement of “Sleigh Ride.”
Dye returned for a duet with Stripling on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a song that calls for equal parts chemistry and vocal chops — and the singers had both. The spirit of the song, like the evening itself, was contagious.