GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra conductor Charles Peltz wanted to do something different than the usual holiday concert, so on Sunday afternoon at the Glens Falls High School Auditorium, he asked songstress Laurel Massé and her three-piece combo to spice things up. It was liking adding cinnamon and nutmeg to a rich eggnog. The capacity crowd savored every drop.
Peltz himself was in a buoyant mood despite an acknowledged cold as he bounded onto the podium. The first number was a perky Christmas medley called “Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson. Peltz treated the piece seriously and not as a throwaway. The orchestra produced a big round sound and Peltz worked to produce dynamic changes and brisk tempos. A cute, sprightly “March of the Toys” by Victor Herbert followed.
Massé and pianist Hubert “Tex” Arnold, bassist John Menegon and drummer Peter Sweeney then performed without the orchestra in a tasty “A Child is Born” by Thad Jones and Alec Wilder. Massé was a founding member of the widely-acclaimed vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, but in 1978 she had a near-fatal car accident and spent two years in convalescence. Massé got her voice back and went on to a career in jazz, cabaret and as a vocal coach. Massé still has the pipes.
Her rich, lustrous voice caressed the notes and words in Amanda McBroom’s “The Rose,” which was a sweet strophic song about love. She was hip in the funky, cool “Santa Baby,” and soared easily over the orchestra in “Christmas Lullaby.” Massé showed some bluesy gospel style in Harry Connick Jr.’s “I Pray on Christmas.”
After some friendly badinage with Peltz, she left and he conducted the orchestra in “Feliz Navidad” with the audience singing along. The audience also clapped as the whip in Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” The concert got serious briefly in a lovely reading of Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” which had a good Baroque sound because the strings played in style with no vibrato. While everyone waited for the 70 singers of the Glens Falls Symphony Children’s Chorus to get situated, Peltz let Massé take a downbeat with the orchestra — her first, she said. Then everyone performed “Christmas Was Made for Children” by Gordon Goodman and Chuck Evans.
Jane Claus, the director of the chorus, took over the podium to lead the children in four songs: “Velvet Shoes”; “Hine Ma Tov” a Hebrew song of peace; “Winds Through the Olive Trees”; and “In the Ending of the Year.” K. Bryan Kirk played piano and Elizabeth Huntley played harp. The children impressed with their strong, balanced part-singing, and their excellent diction, pitch and discipline.
Massé joined them for “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” Peltz conducted “Carol Fest” with them and the concert ended with an audience singalong of favorite carols.