Music — Philharmonic Launches 'Pops' Season

Philharmonic Launches 'Pops' Seasons

By Jeff Rapsis

By Jeff Rapsis []

The starting gun for this year’s holiday music season was fired with flair this past weekend by the New Hampshire Philharmonic, which staged a crackerjack concert at the Palace Theatre.

The Philharmonic’s annual pops concert, traditionally played on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, opens a busy month on the local music calendar. Forget Boston — close to home you can hear everything from symphony orchestras to from-the-heart local singers performing all manner of holiday music.

Things got off to a fast start at the Palace, where Philharmonic music director Anthony Princiotti spurred the orchestra to gallop through a steeplechase of seasonal favorites. Most were familiar, with a high proportion of repeats from past Philharmonic holiday concerts, including excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet score and the Farandole from Bizet’s incidental music to L’Arlesienne.

But all were well played, and the flashy arrangements gave the orchestra a chance to stretch its legs in ways that regular season concerts don’t often allow. The result was a world-class performance with sound that sparkled from start to finish.

A highlight was a rendition of the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saens, a virtuoso violin work featuring soloist Ellen Flanagan of Hanover, winner of the orchestra’s annual youth concerto competition.

Flanagan, 17, showed the stuff that made her a winner, tackling the demanding piece with intense focus and concentration — even a constantly wailing baby didn’t throw her. Some of the more difficult passagework still needs polish, but bringing this music to life so effectively was a triumph and earned her a standing ovation.

The evening was hosted by WMUR-TV anchor Jennifer Vaughn, who successfully negotiated the many tongue-twisting foreign names. The concert concluded with an appearance by Manchester Mayor (and former music teacher) Bob Baines, who guest conducted a version of Jingle Bells arranged like a Sousa march. If only harmony at City Hall came so easily…

•  Nutcracker this weekend: The holiday season just doesn’t seem complete without Tchaikovsky’s ballet about a little girl who enters the world of her toys, only to be chased by rats before being rescued by a nutcracker with military training. In Manchester, the Palace Theatre will produce its own version of the ballet from Thursday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 5, with six performances conducted by Robert Babb. Babb will lead a pick-up group of musicians dubbed the “Palace Festival Orchestra” and accompany dancers of the Southern New Hampshire Ballet School. It’s a combo that’s supplied the Palace production for the past three seasons. Performances are Thursday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4 at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $43; on opening night, seats are 25 percent off.

• Raise those voices: The Manchester Choral Society is busy preparing their annual ‘Holiday Tapestry’ concert, which this year will feature gems of the Baroque era. The program, to be performed on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m., includes everything from a capella motets by early masters to the resplendent sound of music for multiple choirs in the opulent Venetian style, accompanied by strings and organ. (And carol sing-alongs, too.) Performances will be led by Lisa Wolff, the group’s long-time music director, and will take place at Brookside Congregational Church, 2013 Elm St., Manchester. Tickets are $15 to $20; for more information, visit

• Chamber concert features guitar: The next Manchester Chamber Players concert features unusual music for guitar, violin, and flute. Set for Thursday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Manchester Community Music School, it’s a great chance to get to hear these instruments up close and personal. (And it’s free.) Musicians include guitarist David Patterson, who will open with preludes, etudes, and mazurkas by Heitor Villa-Lobos followed by a set of Variations by Fernando Sor on “Oh Cara Armonia,” the famous aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute. He’ll then be joined by violinist Matthew Green in a rarely heard work, Paganini’s Sonata Concertata. for violin and guitar, and later by Aubrie Dionne on flute for Mauro Giuliani’s Grande Serenade for Flute and Guitar. The program also include works by Johann Kaspar Mertz and Francisco Tarrega, and concludes with a sonata by Alberto Ginastera. Manchester Community Music School is located at 2291 Elm St., Manchester, in the old Notre Dame College Holy Cross Hall in the north end. For more information, call 644-4548.

•  The kids sing out: Nothing sounds more like the holidays than the voices of young people. To bring more of that to the Queen City, the Manchester Community Music School presents the New Hampshire Choral Academy’s first-ever Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. at the St. Paul Methodist Church on Smyth Road. The academy, under the direction of Svetlana Pailler, consists of three choruses of students ranging from age 6 through high school, and is in its second year of existence. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will include familiar carols and selections from works such as Handel’s Messiah. For more information, call 644-4548

—Jeff Rapsis

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