The Sacramento Choral Calendar



Concert Review

Placer Pops Chorale & Orchestra

Holiday Pops - December 9, 2017

by Nancy Bramlett

On this evening the Placer Pops Chorale & Orchestra brought a heaping cupful of Christmas cheer to all those lucky enough to be at the Harris Center for the Performing Arts in Folsom. It is a professional choir in all aspects:  pitch, blend, tone, flexibility, spirit…

The Chorale benefits from their multi-talented director, Lorin Miller.  His experience as a solo recording and touring artist, and in film scoring and Hollywood television production, are apparent in the marvelous spectacle that brought joy to all who attended this evening.

As the lights rose, the wonderfully costumed singers decorated the stage with a Dickensian look, and then their voices brought the image to life.  (The singers provide their own costumes, so the variety is delightful.) A simple backdrop of three bright stars with tails of light was very effectively used, with color changes throughout the evening.

(Click here to open the program in a new window.)

The singing began with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Soloists Tony Roberts and Joyce Scolnick were perfect.  It was a truly wonderful song that brought sweet memories to mind and the warmth of love glowing inside.  Then there was a fun arrangement that put “Winter Wonderland” and ”Let it Snow” together in perfect harmony.  The director Miller did a great job on a solo, as did Ronda Pearce.  “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was great fun.  I especially noticed the great playing from the brass section in this number.  “Sleigh Ride” was impressive with Guy Pilgrim as soloist.  I noticed that many of the songs included not only soloists but an ever-changing small group of mic’d performers, changing the balance for the perfect effect and giving many of their fine singers the opportunity to shine.  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” featured a smaller group (31).  The simple beauty of this songsent tingles up my spine.  Again, the brass section was particularly superior.

“I Wonder as I Wander” was intertwined with the sublime and rich “Wexford Carol.” Though I had heard this song before, I never paid attention to the words until this performance:

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.

I believe I heard a superb cello solo in this rich and wonderful piece.  The ending with “I Wonder as I Wonder” was powerful.

“A Pentatonix Christmas” was performed by a small group of ten.  It included a rockin’ “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” an up-tempo “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” with fun vocalises, a traditional “Coventry Carol,” and a wonderful “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in the style of an African spiritual.

There was a short, totally instrumental piece.  Wow! The orchestra was grand!  There was a strong and sophisticated string section: cello, violin, and bass.  And a brilliant brass section: trombone, two trumpets, a horn, and a tenor and alto sax.  And wonderful winds: flute, clarinet and oboe. Plus dynamic drums and percussion. Add a grand piano and two keyboards, at times passionate and playful, and you have a special gift to the audience.

A “Holly, Jolly Christmas Medley” was then performed by a small group of 11 singers. It included “Deck the Halls” and “Frosty the Snowman” and was tons of fun, sending chills of happiness completely through me.  “Jingle Bells” was a delightful rhythmic playground!  Then “Believe” was sung by the youngest members of the Chorale: three high schoolers who gave a marvelous performance, eventually joined by the entire choir.  It was superb!  I absolutely love the intentional multi-generational aspect of this Chorale! “The Prayer” ended the first half with small group of 8 sharing the beautiful melody lines.

Before intermission we learned of the many touring opportunities the members of this group have had.  And during intermission, audience members were encouraged to purchase raffle tickets to support music programs in schools and scholarships for young singers.

After intermission, we were treated to an impressive “Gloria.”  Then “Sing We Now of Christmas” was wonderfully rhythmic as it was blended with “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” for foot-tapping delight.  Parts of this piece were choreographed, and it was very well done.  “Glow” was performed by a small group of 8:  a love song I had not heard before, very cool and jazzy and sung by many generations of couples. Quite fun. 

“Counting Down to Christmas” was performed by four of the young singers who won the scholarship competition.  INCREDIBLE!  “The Christmas Song” had warmth and depth and a perfect ending.  “Celtic Christmas Blessing” with “Silent Night” was a perfectly reverent interpretation“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was the most exquisite arrangement I have ever heard with incredible, tender and rich harmonies.  It was my favorite of the evening.  “The First Noel” was another marvelous arrangement with rich harmonies and a big finish, then quiet sweetness. Lastly, “Joy to the World” combined with “Joyful, Joyful” in a gospel feel made a perfect ending.  When the music stopped, I felt like I had attended the perfect Christmas concert.

Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO.  She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis.  Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale.  She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services.  Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.

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