annual A Lehigh Valley Christmas concert at Allentown’s Symphony Hall brought together about 1,000
people in downtown Allen town and brought a sense of community spirit.
The show brought together an impressive
variety of music: choir, blues, bluesy folk, gospel, rock, Celtic, and Latin, fusion and cool jazz. And it brought out several
In all, what it brought was a wonderful
concert: three dozen songs by 17 musical acts, plus an all-star finale, in a three-hour-and-20-minute show (plus a 15-minute
Perhaps the only thing it didn’t
bring, with the day’s temperature above 60, was much of a sense of winter. Or, frankly, too much a sense of the holiday,
even though the stage was adorned by a huge Christmas tree decoration and most of the acts sang Christmas-themed music.
There were exceptions: Two gospel songs
by the Holmes Family, with former “American Idol” finalist Ian Holmes, not surprisingly captured the season’s
spirit best – perhaps because its message was most explicit, or its joy the most obvious, even while it was as hot as
any rock band.
And by opening his set with a simple
“Merry Christmas, everyone,” James Supra of The James Supra Band also seemed to capture that spirit, as did the
addition of some hot Christmas tune licks by guitarist Dana Gaynor. The crowd spontaneously clapped along and answered back
to Supra’s hollerin’ voice and hot harp.
The new 15-member CommUnity Chorus,
which opened the show with its first public performance – despite the illness of director Brian Jones – set
the right tone, as did The Large Flowerheads’ closing of a delightful “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron (Snoopy’s
Christmas)”and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Weirdly, the quality of the music was
so good, it might have distracted from the message.
Hector Rosado and Ensemble Siete Latin
Jazz played hot Latin rhythm jazz, and the crowd heartily cheered them. Bluesy folk duo Steve Brosky and Jimmy Meyer were
just as instinctual, but rather than using precision, they used ragged sincerity in the songs “Merry Christmas Baby”
and “Blue Christmas,” with Meyer strumming the tinsel out of them.
Soloist Darlene Finelli’s voice
was a wonderful surprise in a Susan Boyle/”Britain’s Got Talent Way” way, helped by sparse but sympathetic
guitar by Zen For Primates’ Mike Krisukas, the show’s musical director. Celtic band Blackwater displayed great
musicianship, and had the crowd clapping to its banjo, flute, guitars and fiddle.
There were other great moments: Fusion Jazz Trio’s plucked bass version of “O Come O Come Immanuel,”
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski playing drums with Jake Kaligis and The New Constitution on “Blue Christmas,” Lehigh
County Executive Don Cunningham leading his band The Cabinet in a ragged “Run Run Rudolph,” Lehigh Valley institution
Dave Fry’s two-tune singalong and Doug Hawk Proposition’s original cool jazz songs, including one called “Cold
The show closed with the entire musical
cast on a heartfelt and surprisingly good – if also ragged – version of U.S.A.
for Africa’s “We Are the World.” It certainly captured the idea of peace on earth and goodwill toward
that’s what Christmas is all about.