Symphony of the Americas Magico Concert

On Tuesday night the Symphony of the Americas lit up the holiday bedecked Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center with an eye and ear filling holiday extravaganza to delight both the seasoned concertgoer and musical neophyte alike. With Maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese and the orchestra in top form, music for Christmas and Hanukkah was accompanied by films that pictured the impressions and vibrations of the musical menu. Some of the videos were from Hollywood films and animated holiday features.

Brooks-Bruzzese opened the program with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Greensleeves. The work's principal melody, an ancient English tune, was adapted into the Christmas song What Child is This? The orchestra's silky string textures and the conductor's flowing tempo set the holiday spirit in motion.  Karrie Griffiths' elegant solo flute over Charlene Conner's harp glissandos weaved the introduction's mesmeric spell. Two catchy tunes by American icon Leroy Anderson (China Doll and Trumpeter's Lullaby) were followed by Bruce Chase's opulent arrangement of a holiday perennial - Irving Berlin's White Christmas, given lustrous treatment by the orchestra.

Brass proclamations of Christmas Bells Are Ringing introduced Calvin Custer's full orchestral version of Canadian Brass Christmas, a festive medley indeed. Jack Bullock's characterful arrangement of Johnny Marks' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was accompanied by endearing highlights from the animated adaptation of the tale. Barry Mann's witty theme music for the film National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation accompanied clips of Chevy Chase's athletic high jinks and Beverly D'Angelo's radiant presence generating their own unique brand of nostalgia. Coupled with a film of the ballet, Brooks-Bruzzese's exhilarating performance of Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker closed the concert's first half on a high spirited note. The genial maestro told the audience to "go have a snowball" during intermission.

Scenes and music from Robert Zemeckis' classic Christmas film Polar Express recalled the story of a young boy who denies the existence of Santa Claus before becoming a true believer after a trip to the North Pole to see the jolly red-suited, bearded man and his reindeer. Alan Silvestri is one of the most sophisticated composers working in Hollywood and his score combines whimsy, charm, vigor, and eloquence in equal measure - enhanced by Brooks-Bruzzese and the ensemble's plush performance. Elliot Del Borgo's dynamic symphonic panorama on Hatikvah celebrated Hanukkah. The melody of the National Anthem of Israel was morphed through a series of variations from the plaintive to the martial and fiercely robust dance rhythms. Films of worshipers at Orthodox temples and dancers at vibrant festive days were the perfect visual embodiment of this brilliant new take on an ancient melody.

Charles Schulz's beloved characters of Charlie Brown and Lucy came to life on screen to Vince Guaraldi's quirky and engaging score for A Charlie Brown Christmas, played with swagger and pizzazz. Robert Sheldon's medley A Most Wonderful Christmas mixed such all-time favorites as I'll Be Home for Christmas and Winter Wonderland with the Andy Williams hit It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year in a wonderful array of orchestral colors.  The classic animated version of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas was enhanced by Jerry Brubaker's high octane musical backgrounds. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's bluesy, swinging transformation of music from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker was an utter delight - a reinvention of a classic with all sections of the Symphony of the Americas playing at fever pitch. The jaunty swagger of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride concluded the program with Santa and Mrs. Claus making an appearance. After wishing the audience Happy Holidays and a good New Year, Brooks-Bruzzese repeated White Christmas to complete an evening of holiday cheer.

There is one remaining performance on Sunday afternoon of this wonderful combination of film and music. A delightful holiday gift for children of all ages, the program makes a great introduction to the magic of the symphony orchestra for newcomers to the performing arts and a great way to celebrate the holidays.

The Symphony of the Americas repeats Holiday Music and Movies 3 p.m. Sunday, December 9 at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater in Fort Lauderdale.

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