REVIEW: Magnificent and visually-stunning, Holiday Pops offers flawless holiday cheer

Woven into a wide spectrum of Christmas carols, spiritual hymns, and holiday music capped off with a rousing sing-along, is the stuff that makes the Holiday Pops so appealing each year.  Whether it’s through the excitement of the all volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus or maestro Keith Lockhart sharing his own Christmas memories, The Boston Pops adds their own unique, personal flair to each heartfelt performance, making it easy to alleviate the stress of the season and happily embrace what truly matters each year.  In its 21st season, The Holiday Pops at Boston Symphony Hall continues through December 31.   The Boston Pops also offers special presentations of the film, “Back to the Future” with live orchestra and New Year’s Eve led by acclaimed bandleader, Bo Winiker.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Elegantly adorning the intrinsically-detailed gold balconies are white, twinkling lights and multi-colored bulbs on thick, festive wreaths, just a sampling of the stunning, festive surroundings inside Symphony Hall.  The hall also offers its share of playful, humorous decor including orchestra harps topped off with Santa hats.  During the show, the stage spontaneously came to life with a variety of scenery reflected above the stage, from flickering candles to sweeping, dancing snowflakes.  Holiday Pops also featured a stirring presentation of winter scenes created by visual artist and astronomer Jose Francisco Salgado, PhD.  With a lit sky swirling violet with chiming bells, the presentation’s depiction the Northern lights to the song, The Adoration of the Magi from Three Botticelli Pictures lent a mystical, peaceful tone.

This powerful performance of Holiday Pops offered equal doses of reflective material and lightheartedness, the first half insightful and striking.  A Christmas prelude that included Hark the Harold Angels Sing, kicked off a reflective, wondrous first half woven in with maestro Keith Lockhart’s personal reflections of the holiday season such as a wonderful story about his father.  A lullaby sounding Christmas oratorio, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light followed by the Hanukkah song, Light One Candle depicted sacrifice, unity, and hope.  Holiday Pops also offered a jubilant calypso of Mary’s Little Boy Child, as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, dressed splendidly in black and white, playfully swayed to the beat.

Brimming with beloved classic Christmas carols and guest appearances by Santa and more, the second half of Holiday Pops was a vibrant, yuletide spectacle of Christmas cheer.  While old fashioned Christmas bulbs glowed to the beat, The jolly Tanglewood Festival Chorus delivered a string of Christmas waltzes, singalongs, and more including the annual reading of Clement Charke Moore’s Twas The Night Before Christmas by special guest, NBC Boston’s Melody Mendez.  Boston’s delightful, signature versions of Sleigh Ride and the incredible and amusing 12 Days of Christmas were welcome additions to the mix as Santa Claus expertly conducted the rousing Chorus.  Holiday Pops gave a final encore of Let There Be Peace on Earth, as Earth shone overhead, brilliantly conveyed the quiet hope for the upcoming New Year.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has a tremendous lineup in the New Year!  All performances take place at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets to any of BSO’s upcoming performances, through SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts.  Listen to the Holiday Pops at home with “A Boston Pops Christmas: Live from Symphony Hall” album available through ITunes, Amazon, and Amazon MP3.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks his return to Symphony Hall for thrilling New Year’s Eve concert

Swing into 2017 once again at Symphony Hall! Brimming with spectacular live entertainment and a full menu of scrumptious cuisine led by returning bandleader Bo Winiker, the New Year looks bright with an elegant evening with Boston Pops New Year’s Eve December 31 at 10 p.m. The doors open at 8:30 p.m. Click here for tickets to this exciting evening and more information.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks about preparing to join the Boston Pops for a monumental sixth time, his future plans, and his biggest wish for 2017. Click here for a closer look at Bo’s jazz band, Winiker Music.

Jeanne Denizard: How does it feel to be invited back to Symphony Hall on one of the biggest nights of the year? It must have been a wonderful surprise.

Bo Winiker: In one of his last and greatest speeches, the late Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of having ‘been to the mountaintop.’ To me, standing on stage at Symphony Hall and performing with the finest musicians in the world is making it to the top of that mountain. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I remember the feeling of walking out on stage for the very first time and being completely overwhelmed with emotion. It is a feeling I will never forget, and I can hardly believe that I was asked back once, let alone for a sixth time. It is an incredible honor.

JD: New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching. Do you feel ready for it? How do you prepare for such a high-profile performance? I know your band is consistently updating your music repertoire.

BW: My son Kim, when asked a similar question, once answered that he was born ready. In a sense, I feel this way now. I have been a professional musician for more than 50 years so I have been preparing for this assignment my entire life. All the hours of practice, rehearsals, and the thousands of performances have given me the confidence to stand on one of the most important musical stages in the world with one of the world’s finest orchestras and still feel as relaxed as if I were playing alone in my own living room. That being said, I do spend a considerable amount of time studying the scores and practicing my solos.

JD: How do you usually spend New Year’s Eve?

BW: Since I was ten years old I have always performed on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I have performed on just about every major holiday my whole life. The idea of staying home on a holiday is impossible to imagine!

JD: How has Winiker Music been this year? What new projects or events coming up?

BW: This has been one of our best years ever. My brother Bill and I measure our success by how many people we make happy. Based on that fact, this has been one of our most successful years yet. We have performed at multiple weddings, quite a few corporate events and fundraisers, and keep up a regular weekly performance at a local Brookline restaurant called ‘Brothers’ in Brookline. This December has been especially busy with holiday parties!

JD: What are your future plans and your biggest wish for 2017?

BW: My plan for the future is to keep swinging on the bandstand and on the golf course for as long as the good Lord will let me!

As for my biggest wishes for 2017, I hope that this year brings me the opportunity to keep making people happy with my music. I try to do good deeds that build up the people around me and make them feel good about themselves. There are so many people in this world who do not think about the impact their actions have on others. I wish more people walked the earth with love in their hearts.

I hope 2017 will allow me to continue learning new music every week, something I have strived to do throughout my entire career. I am always excited by new music, from the Great American Songbook classics to the newest hits from America’s Top 40. I love to follow new artists who are constantly bringing innovation to the industry with unique melodies and rhythms and I listen to everything I hear very closely. Learning and performing this music is the best way for me to connect with younger generations and I love surprising people from the bandstand when I switch from Louis Armstrong to Taylor Swift. It keeps me on my toes and young at heart! I may have been performing for over 50 years, but there is always something new to learn. My work is not done yet!

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has an incredible lineup of live performances coming up including a thrilling presentation of Back to the Future with live music from the Boston Pops on Friday, December 30 and Saturday, December 31. New Year’s Eve with the Boston Pops featuring vocalist Cyndy Gayle and special guest Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will take place on Saturday, Dec. 31 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts at 10 p.m. Click here for more information and for tickets.