Over the last few years, the nation has seen much upheaval, pain and death. But one thing has remained constant: the annual holiday concert of the Central Ohio Symphony. There is solace in repetition and ritual. We all long for certainty – or at least a bit of hope and joy – in an uncertain world. At its most recent holiday concert, performed on Dec. 12, the Symphony did not disappoint. It once again brought us “tidings of comfort and joy” and a sense of “umoja” (“unity”), the first of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The program included a total of 12 numbers. Several were crowd-pleasing Christmas medleys, arranged by orchestrators such as Bruce Chase, Arthur Harris, Bob Krogstad or Bob Lowden. (Arrangers often receive short shrift, which is why their names are listed here in full.) At least one of them gave a nod to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which is also celebrated this season. New this year was “Christmas at the Movies,” which included scores from five classic holiday films.
Dale Nawrocki, Tom Sobieski, and David Hejmanowski gave wizardly solo performances, accompanied by the orchestra. Nawrocki, the orchestra’s principal trumpeter, played Leroy Anderson’s “Trumpeter’s Lullaby” with great virtuosity and precision. Concertmaster Sobieski, violin, tackled Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesfreud” (“Love’s Joy”). Kreisler’s wistful “Liebesleid” (“Love’s Sorrow”) and “Liebesfreud” are both evocative pieces with great emotional depth. While Sobieski’s technique is impeccable, this reviewer felt his rendering of “Liebesfreud” was too much on the rational side. Perhaps a year-long sabbatical in Vienna, Austria, might soften him up a tad? That brings us to David Hejmanowski, a local judge of prodigious talent. Here he shone as the energetic typist in Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter.” It was fun watching him furiously banging on an actual typewriter, used as a percussion instrument, and hitting the return carriage, each time resulting in a “ping” sound. Ten thousand hours of tenacious tapping on typewriters, computers, and cellphones finally paid off. He is well on his way to Carnegie Hall. Nawrocki had also inserted some comedic antics into his performance. The concertgoers devoured the humoristic touch, as they did in 2019 when Leroy Anderson’s “Sandpaper Ballet” was on the program. Classical music has a reputation of being way too serious, but that is actually not always true. Plenty of composers have used light-hearted humor and irony in their works, starting with Haydn and Mozart.
The star of the evening was no doubt soprano Angel Victoria Tyler. Although she is new to Delaware and to the Symphony, the audience quickly warmed up to her gorgeous voice and began to listen with rapt admiration. Tyler was the lead singer in a couple of singalongs, but she also delivered several solo numbers, including Pietro Yon’s “Gesù bambino” (“Come Let Us Adore Him”) and two arias from Händel’s oratorio “Messiah” (“Rejoice Greatly” and “He Shall Feed His Flock”). First of all, Tyler’s range is astonishing. Although she is officially a soprano, she is equally at home as an alto and mezzo soprano. Secondly, her expressive voice is rich and warm, her diction crisp and clear. Her delivery was strong and confident. The quality of her operatic tremolo makes it easy to imagine her playing lead roles in longer musical works as well. There is no doubt that Angel Tyler is an assured and accomplished musician. She received her training at SUNY Oswego under the tutelage of Mihoko Tsutsumi, who works there as a choral conductor, vocal instructor, and piano accompanist. Tyler is similarly a versatile generalist with deep roots and experience in sacred and secular music, choral art, conducting, music education, and solo performances. If she sticks with music, there is the potential for a triumphant future. Clearly, the crowd loved her fresh face and voice. The standing ovation at the end of the concert applauded not only the Symphony and its stalwart conductor Jaime Morales-Matos, but also Angel Tyler.
This concert’s sponsors included Ohio Living Sarah Moore, the City of Delaware, the Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Wesleyan University and WOSU Public Media. The red poinsettias that decorated Gray Chapel were courtesy of Kroger. Three more exciting concerts await, one each in March, April and May. Details can be found in the Symphony’s literature, concert programs, or on its website (www.centralohiosymphony.org). In the meantime, enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, or perhaps no holiday at all. And may the New Year bring you peace and happiness and more “comfort and joy”!