Classical Music Review | What you missed Joshua Bell had the billing, but the Indianapolis Children"s Choir made the killing. For the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra"s "Classical Christmas" concert, Henry Leck"s celebrated Indianapolis Children"s Choir stole internationally acclaimed Hoosier violinist Joshua Bell"s limelight at the Scottish Rite Cathedral Ballroom last Saturday evening - to which was added this season a Sunday matinee. For those tired of witnessing the countless, commercially oriented pre-Nativity events throughout December, "Classical Christmas" offers a welcome refuge. Its audiences have correspondingly increased each year since ISO Conductor Laureate Raymond Leppard launched the event in 1998.
Acclaimed Hoosier violinist Joshua Bell performed in "Classical Christmas" last weekend.
British conductor and longtime music director of the Hartford Symphony, Michael Lankester made his first ISO podium appearance by immediately winning over his audience with his engaging commentary. Lankester began with the Corelli Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 8, entitled the "Christmas Concerto," with its familiar G minor Allegro and lovely, concluding G major Pastorale. ISO violinists Philip Palermo and David Bartolowits soloed with an all-string orchestra. Lankester then provided an effective contrast with three numbers from Benjamin Britten"s A Ceremony of Carols (1942) for Harp and Chorus: "There Is No Rose," "Balulalow" and "This Little Babe." Young soprano Kelly Harrison stepped out from the choir to solo in the middle carol. ISO harpist Diane Evans did the honors with her usual aplomb - as well as joining the orchestra"s principal flutist Karen Moratz for excellent solo work in Vaughan Williams" Fantasia on "Greensleeves." Later in the concert the choir joined the orchestra in the ever-popular "Jesu, Joy of Man"s Desiring" from Bach"s Cantata No. 147. In all these pieces, the Children"s Choir provided as perfectly intoned a delivery as one could imagine ever hearing. Our city is indebted to Leck"s talents in assembling kids from all walks of life and "allowing" them to achieve far more than they would have thought themselves capable. Joshua Bell"s part in the program was to conduct and solo in "Autumn" and "Winter" from Vivaldi"s Four Seasons for violin and strings - as well as Bach"s Violin Concerto No. 2 in E, BWV 1042. His management of the string ensemble impressed at least as much as his playing, bringing forth crisp, precise string work as well as nicely nuanced phrasing. Yet another violinist-turned-conductor, Bell will surely keep his hand in both endeavors. Lankester concluded his program with his own arrangements of carols from around the world, which he titled "Round About the Earth." The young choristers, beginning outside the ballroom, slowly made their way in as they sang each carol in its proper language, flanking either side of the platform stage before positioning themselves at the back of it, then recessing as they concluded. The German "Stille Nacht" was, expectedly, the most familiar. Included, however, was a Chinese carol, with orchestral timbres right out of the "Pagodas" section of Ravel"s Mother Goose music. With the also familiar "Carol of the Bells" as an encore, this assemblage of young local singers - together with Lankester"s arranging talents - made the evening, for me, a five-star event.