KSO Clayton Holiday Concert is fast-paced with huge cast

Harold DuckettOur Town Arts

More than 250 singers and instrumental musicians filled the Civic Auditorium Friday evening for the 31st edition of the Knoxville Symphony Clayton Holiday Concert.

All accounted for themselves well. One (sorry, no spoiler here) was extraordinary: a Santa Claus with an exceptional baritone voice that Knoxville Opera shouldn’t miss the chance to cast, with or without that red uniform, stylish boots, red cap and sparkling white beard.

Guest soloist tenor Alex Ward, a native of Farragut who now sings in national and international companies of Broadway shows, was also very good. He has a clear, solid voice that nicely adapted to the demands of several songs.

The several dance performances by Go! Contemporary Dance Works featured well-designed choreography, good form and excellent execution, nowhere better than during John Wasson’s Bellsong Fantasy.

The presentations by the Farragut High School Ensemble would be the pride of any school. Their vocal balance was delightful and their diction precisely sharp and crisp.

Then there was the Knoxville Handbell Festival Ringers, an ensemble of handbell players assembled just for the Clayton concerts. Prepared by Les Beaver, handbell director at Bearden United Methodist Church, and Andrew Duncan, director of worship at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, they were superb with both the hand-rung bells and the lower pitches played by ringing and with mallets.

Of course, the Knoxville Choral Society was as good as they almost always are. Directed by Dr. Eric Thorson, KCS is consistently good choral collaborators when performing with the Knoxville Symphony.

That leaves the musicians of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, which was on its toes, and conductor Aram Demirjian, who put together the fast-paced concert that hit most of the high notes of both sacred and secular carol music of the season, along with music from 10 movies, as well as the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”

No moment dragged; there was no place for an audience to get bored. If anything, in a place or two, things went too fast, especially when the very brief orchestral introduction of the “Hallelujah Chorus” slammed into the end of the music from “Frozen” so fast the GO! dancers had not even gotten off stage.

The concert will be performed again today (Dec. 16) at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 3. Tickets are available in advance on the Knoxville Symphony website or at the door at the Civic Auditorium.

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