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There is nothing like music to change your mood and to put you in the right frame of mind for a special occasion or for seasonal festivities. On Saturday, December 3, the music was provided by the Concert Singers of Cary and the Triangle Wind Ensemble at the Herbert C. Young Community Center in Cary. The "Holiday Pops in Cary" concert pleased a large audience in the former Cary Town Center, which is basically a gymnasium dressed up with a plastic tarp on the floor, risers for the chorus, and chairs for the audience. Some backdrop deflectors that changed colors through the magic of lighting added visual pleasure to the varied and well done seasonal pop music.
The CSC Symphonic Choir is the full ensemble of singers that conductor Larry Speakman has prepared and guided toward higher quality and achievement since 1991. The Triangle Wind Ensemble was founded in 1999 and provides opportunities for woodwind, brass, and percussion players to enhance their skills through the performance of challenging wind ensemble and symphonic band literature. Conductor Robert S. Hunter is also band director at Enloe High School in Raleigh.
Together, the two groups blended in a rich and exciting sound, beginning the program with "Gloria" by popular symphonic band and choral composer Randol Alan Bass. It was a rousing rendition of the ancient hymn of praise inspired by the song of the shepherds on the night of the first Christmas, and it made the most of the capabilities of both groups. This was followed by an arrangement of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" for band and narrator. Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister did the narration while the band dramatized Clement Moore's poem with music composed by R.A. Bass.
"Russian Church Music" arranged for band by Alfred Reed was heard next. It is based on Russian liturgical themes and cast in the style of 19th-century Russian romanticism with some newer harmonies here and there. Some of it was reminiscent of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. It displayed the symphonic sound of the ensemble from quiet yearning prayers to triumphant hymns of praise.
There were also two Christmas compilations by R.A. Bass, one of which concluded the program. There was a piece identified in the program as Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue by J.S. Bach, which contained nothing I have ever heard by the Cantor of Leipzig! I found out later the piece that was played was actually "The Eighth Candle," a Chanukah celebration by Steve Reisteter(!). An announcement from the podium or a program insert would have been helpful, for sure – the music was pleasant enough, but it was irritating to try to figure out what it was!
The highlights of the evening were two very familiar Christmas pops favorites, Irving Berlin's magical "White Christmas" arranged by Roy Ringwald, and Leroy Anderson's most popular composition, "Sleigh Ride". Both were done with choir and wind ensemble sounding professionally smooth and polished.