Now, in 2006, Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra are releasing another Christmas album that includes, yes, some successful arrangements, like Robert Wendell’s of "Little Drummer Boy" that brings together the forces of various sections of the orchestra, especially brass and percussion, with unmistakable references to Maurice Ravel’s "Boléro" for dramatic buildup. In addition, "Precious Moments" concisely performed is perfectly suited for the orchestra’s talents as it delivers an exhilarating performance of the theme from Home Alone, which includes the perfectly chosen vocal contributions of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts Children’s Choir.
The same choir performs on a more extended track, a medley of Christmas songs arranged by Bruce Heasley, on "Caroling Fun" (which it is), not to mention the title track, appropriately enough, from A Charlie Brown Christmas, buoyantly arranged by Heasley as well. The Indiana University Singing Hoosiers join the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra on five of the tracks as well, giving voice to the traditional Christmas favorites like "We Need a Little Christmas."
The jazz content of the CD come in when some of Telarc’s vocalists join the orchestra as featured guests, Ann Hampton Callaway, Tony DeSare, Tierney Sutton and John Pizzarelli. Stepping in front of the orchestra, the singers bring their talents to the interpretation of the Christmas music as they’re characteristically individualistic while singing the lead. One might expect Pizzarelli to break loose into a guitar/vocal improvisation double-time chorus of "Silver Bells," but he stays true to the orchestral spirit of the recording as do the other singers. After "I’ll Be Home for Christmas’s" first chorus, Sutton sings a wordless line above the orchestra in the second chorus before a harmonic interpretation to the ending.
Recorded in Cincinnati in 1999 with the additional guest vocalist tracks recorded in 2006, Christmastime Is Here brings together an array of Telarc talent to Cincinnati to introduce what will become another favorite holiday CD.