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Vocalists join orchestra for 'Holiday Pops' concert
Conductor David Wiley (right) and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra returned to Martinsville High School on Sunday for the annual Holiday Pops Spectacular. Above, Wiley directs as Brandon Jamar Martin, a Bassett High School and Shenandoah University graduate, sings â€œIâ€™ll Be Home for Christmas.â€� (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Reflective, solemn songs and foot-tapping beats had the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra's audience spellbound Sunday night.
The Martinsville High School auditorium was full for the orchestra's Holiday Pops Spectacular, which is in its sixth year as part of the Piedmont Arts On Stage! performance series.
The show opened with the delicate sounds of string instruments playing "Joy To The World" in a medley of carols. Gentle tinkling of bells was behind "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." The Hollins University Concert Choir gave a smooth, delicate vocal entry into the medley with a soothing rendition of "Silent Night," which gave way to the cheerful bell-ringing of "Jingle Bells."�
Then soprano Adelaide Muir Trombetta came on stage, glamorous in a side-draped pink gown with silver accents. As she sang "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music," Trombetta maintained a beaming smile even when coming out of the highest and longest notes.
Next, the voices of the Hollins choir seemed to dance together in a complicated choreography with two 14th-century songs. "Wolcumb Yole" gave a feeling of excitement and anticipation, and "This Little Babe" had harp accompaniment as the three vocal divisions seemed to chase one another's sounds.
Trombetta returned to the stage to belt out the operatic "Let the Bright Seraphim" by Handel. That was followed by the gentle, floating melody of the choir singing "Children's Prayer" from "Hansel and Gretel." Several people in the audience were seen with eyes closed, heads back, focused on the gentle musical appeal to angels.
Just before intermission, Trombetta appeared in a short red dress with white fur trim, black stockings and gold high-heeled shoes. She showed her playful side with a flirtatious rendition of "Santa Baby." That was followed by a rousing tap dance routine to "Kickin' Kringle." Her shoes made their own music as she danced about, ending in a split.
Tenor Brandon Martin, a graduate of Bassett High School and Shenandoah University, was a special guest of the orchestra. Fitting for a local native home from performing in theaters up and down the East Coast, he sang "I'll Be Home for Christmas."�
Waving in appreciation toward Martin, Conductor David Stewart Wiley said, "You never know, when you support music in the schools, where that might lead."�
To the classic tune of "Sugar Plum Fairies" from "The Nutcracker," the choir added playful, light-hearted lyrics written by Wiley to lament the hassles of the holiday season. At the line "crying at prices," the audience broke into laughter.
Trombetta returned in a glittering gold evening gown for the inspiring "Believe" and the rollicking "Jingle Bell Rock."
Near the end, Wiley led the audience in a sing-a-long of Christmas carols while Trombetta walked through the crowd, holding the microphone to highlight individual voices.
After the standing ovation, the orchestra resumed playing for an audience that did not want to leave. Trombetta sang "Please Come Home," and Michael Havens in a Santa hat jammed along with her on electric guitar. That was followed by a solemn Italian song meaning "It is time to say good-bye."�
Beth Pline, the orchestra's executive director, said, "I love coming down here" to Martinsville. This show is one of three the orchestra performs for the holidays.
This year's show had a few changes requested by Kathy Rogers and Barbara Parker of Piedmont Arts, Pline said: "More sacred pieces ... (and) more serious ones."�
Union Hall residents Phyllis Karavatakis and her husband, Nick, said the show is a yearly tradition for them. "It puts you in the holiday spirit," she said. "It's always my kick-off to the holidays."�
John Pratt of Martinsville said he always prefers the instrumental selections, but he enjoyed the singing this time as well, because "that gal's got a hell of a voice."�
Drew Christensen of Martinsville also commented on Trombetta's voice, saying he didn't see why she used a microphone because "She could blow the people out" if the microphone was turned up. "It's nice to hear a good quality choir also," Christensen added.
The Hollins choir is directed by Dr. Shelbie Wahl.
Before the show, the Steel Drum Orchestra of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge performed in the lobby. Shawn Thwaites is the director. The group was started with funding from Women in Philanthropy with contributions from Piedmont Arts and Henry County Schools.