0 9 min 5 mths

With Christmas being two weeks away, the Kennedy Center wanted to lift out spirits with their most festive concert of the season. Over the course of two days and three concerts, the venue’s Concert Hall plays host to the National Symphony Orchestra for their annual A Holiday Pops! concerts with Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. Every year, this amazing concert brings a special guest to celebrate this event and this year’s guest is one of the best as she brings not only her hits but songs from her latest Christmas album, Songs for The Season, to entertain the audience. This wonderful guest is none other than Christmas’s biggest fan, Ingrid Michaelson!

I covered the third and final concert on Saturday night at the Concert Hall. The nearly sold-out crowd full of people of all ages filled their seats as they are getting ready for two hours of Christmas music magic. Christmas trees flank the concert hall stage that you could have sworn you wanted to see the rage. The concert started at 8:07pm. Tonight’s conductor, Steven Reineke, take the stage as our glorious National Symphony Orchestra takes us on a spectacular Christmas journey for the books. They started the night with which including an oldie but goodie “Deck the Halls” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. The six-minute medley was so majestic that it was a great start to a wonderful concert. This was followed up by “I Saw Three Ships” before our special guests arrived.

Next Steven introduced our special guest of the evening, the wonderful Ingrid Michaelson. Michaelson is joined by Hannah Winkler (vocals & keyboards) and Allie Moss (guitar & vocals). The tenacious trio started off their first with the timeless classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. When you heard, you can truly feel that they have sung from the heart with their sweet, amazing vocals.  Ingrid and company had taken the Christmas classics and made them modern. She had the perfect voice for a festive concert and it shows throughout the night. During the show, Ingrid stated during a break about the concerts she performed at the Kennedy Center this week, “It’s our third and final show and it feels sad that it went be so fast.”

The next song they performed is “Let it Snow!” and the combinations of their harmonies and the majestic sounds of the NSO made it grandiose. For the next song, Ingrid asked the audience if we see the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. She went to tell the story of seeing the movie in class while in sixth grade and helps paints the scene of the song she is about to perform next. This was great storytelling on Ingrid’s awakening in the sixth grade. It was Mele Kalikimaka! Ingrid’s vocals, along with Hannah’s and Allie’s and the NS had taken us back to the classic pool scene. You can honestly close you eyes and feel & hear the song as it puts you in a good mood to celebrate the holidays on the Hawaiian islands.

She pulls out the ukulele and she announced that she recently turned forty-two before going into her classic hit “Be OK”. It’s a great song with a good hook that you can truly listen to when you need a good pick me up. A few more songs passed on before we got to hear the Christmas classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Ingrid’s range on that song was so dynamic that it felt like you were listening to a modern recording of her voice in the 1950’s. Hands down on the best covers I have ever heard of this timeless classic tune. She noted that “we have bring you up, we have bring you down. Time to bring you up again.” And she delivered with another Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland” with a little choreography intermixed. At the end of her performance of “You and I”, she noticed a woman in the audience who had a scrunchie that made some jingle jangle sounds and asked her to come up and give her the scrunchy which the young woman obliged. She planned to use the scrunchy later on in the concert.

The NSO with Gianandrea Noseda and violinist Akiko Suwanai

The second act started with the NSO’s rendition of Jingle Bell Rock. Never had I heard a banjo riff so wicked to start off the festive song and made it work. I loved how the orchestra started the song from a Dixieland feel to a symphonic finish with a mean electric guitar solo that will blow your mind. To say that this cover was epic is an understatement. Next, they honor the celebration of Hanukkah as cellist David Hardy led the orchestra in the song “Behold the Light”. It was the very first time that I heard this piece and I truly enjoyed David’s performance.

Our terrific trio came back onstage to get us rocking again with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. During the song, Ingrid let Hannah and Allie display their vocals with a couple of stanza solo and they were spectacular. I am so glad that they got to be part of this festive event. Then came, what I would consider the highlight of the show. Next song, Ingrid talks about her boyfriend or whom she likes to call “Man friend” felt that this song was a happy song but she felt it was a sad song. With a few blue spotlights in the stage air, it was time to hear “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Her rendition of this amazing song made me cry. It was sheer brilliance and very hopeful. It was the combination of her vocals, the sound of the ukulele and the lyrics that hit you deep in your heart.

After the song, she stated that she received an email from James in the audience and wouldn’t you know that it was a surprise proposal happening right above us. He popped the question and the fiancée said YES!!! Congrats to the newly engaged couple. Now what could top that – only one thing, a visit from jolly old St Nick as he came down the concert hall and made his way on stage. Even Steven bowed down to the him and let him conduct the NSO for a few to the eyes of the young and old watching. Putting on the jingle scrunchy from earlier, Ingrid closed out the night with one of her songs from the new album “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” before all three and the conductor and the orchestra took their bows ending the night….. or so we thought. They came back onstage and you suddenly hear a subtle sounds of the strings in the air that can bring a tear to one’s eye. Ingrid sing the song Auld Lang Syne as we get ready to say farewell to 2021 in a few weeks. With the audience singing the last few lines of the song, we say goodbye to an amazing set of performers that is Allie Moss, Hannah Winkler, the NSO conducted by Steven Reineke and our special guest Ingrid Michaelson. I do hope we get to all of them to come back again making amazing holiday music and great memories for the children young and old! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!