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Christmastime Is Here by Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

Telarc International has combined its resources, orchestral and jazz, to offers holiday listeners a treat that features once again the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Under the leadership of conductor Erich Kunzel, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recorded one of Telarc’s evergreen recordings Christmas with the Pops from 1990. It remains a popular recording for the label even to this day. Kunzel has applied his considerable talents to other pops orchestras throughout the United States, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony. However, Kunzel’s name has become linked to the Cincinnato Pops Orchestra ever since he directed his first concert with them when Dave Brubeck appeared as the guest soloist. That was in 1965.

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.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
  • CD Title: Christmastime Is Here
  • Genre: Holiday Jazz
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Telarc
  • Tracks: Sing with Us of Christmas, Precious Moments, I Wonder As I Wander, Christmastime Is Here, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy, We Need a Little Christmas, The Christmas Song, Caroling Fun, Jingle Bell Rock, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Silver Bells
  • Musicians: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra with Erich Kunzel, director; Indiana University Singing Hoosiers with Dr. Michael Schwartzkopf, director; School for the Creative and Performing Arts Children’s Choir with Laurie Wyant, director; Ann Hampton Calloway, King’s Sisters, Tony DeSare, Tierney Sutton, John Pizzarelli (vocals).
  • Rating: Two Stars
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