CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- John Williams is not the composer who springs to mind when you think of Christmas music, but two of his pieces from "Home Alone" opened the annual holiday concert of the West Virginia Symphony Pops Friday night at the Clay Center.
Williams rarely stumbled with tone or timing in setting the right mood for a film scene, and he did not miss with these pieces that set the Christmassy mood in "Home Alone."
Talk about the right sound for a holiday mood.
Burnished chords in low brass and horns and the chorus wreathed in shimmers of celesta, harp, bells and vibraphone make "Somewhere in My Memory" sparkle while brassy fanfares, and heraldic choral passages give "Merry Christmas" its substance.
Conductor Grant Cooper included few of his arrangements in this year's program. His jocular parody of Ravel's "Bolero," which includes "The Little Drummer Boy" and "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (and put percussionist Matt Larson in the role of the drummer playing the famous mind-numbing repetitive riff from the Ravel) was taut and balanced.
Cooper's "Jingle Bells" is shorter and funnier. Concertmaster Amelia Chan played the first turn through the tune with plenty of virtuosic asides before the Appalachian Children's Chorus joined for a sparkling conclusion.
Cooper's poignant arrangement of the Hanukkah song "Mi ze hidlik" featured the young singers in lovely voice, with strings and a bit of winds.
The youths also sang a nifty a cappella, "Up Above My Head," conducted by director Selina Midkiff.