The annual Roanoke Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops concert is one of the most popular of the year and this year’s was certainly one of the best. Roanoke native Jane Powell, with her booming voice that covers five octives, captured the nearly full Salem Civic Center audience immediately. Her warm smile and self deprecating humor with comments about her “$20 ‘close out’ dress making her look skinny” brought the near capacity house down. From then on it was all “Jane.”
Powell opened with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and then went on to sing “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and other Christmas favorites like “Jingle Bells Rock” and “Christmas Baby,” made popular by the late Eartha Kitt in 1951.
Adding to the fun was Santa Claus dressed up like Music Director and Conductor David Stewart Wiley. The festive spirit carried over to the orchestra members as they all seemed to enjoy Jane Powell and the concert as much as the audience. It was light hearted entertainment at its best.
The Roanoke Symphony Chorus, Salem Choral Society, and Roanoke College Children’s Choir added some beautiful choral work with renditions of “Hello Santa,” “This Christmastide” and “We Need A Little Christmas.” Powell received several standing ovations and especially one for her version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
Wiley, an unlikely Grinch, did a very entertaining vocal rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
It was a fun-filled evening that had smiles on the faces of all the patrons as they were leaving. It is the time of year when the right combination of people and music elevate the spirit and make everything seem right, if just for a while.
The group repeated this program on Sunday at Martinsville High School and on Monday at Radford University.
Jane Powell, who has been doing shows on cruise ships and college campuses for many years, recently signed a contract to work at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. for several months.
The next performance of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will be “Movie Masterworks” on January 23-24, 2011.