Kennedy Center Christmas: Leslie Odom, Jr. Captures The Season In A Soulful Symphony Performance
‘Tis the season for holiday concerts, and there was no better one than the Christmas spectacular at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that featured Tony and Grammy Award-winning entertainer Leslie Odom, Jr. alongside the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO Pops).
The night featured Odom, dapper in a deep red velvet suit, joining NSP Pops to perform soulful numbers from his “Simply Christmas” album, as well as some holiday standards.
The star of the Broadway smash “Hamilton” and the current film “Harriet” dazzled the crowd with his haunting tone and vocal precision. Odom’s voice warmed the room like a cup of just-made hot chocolate, as he presented about six offerings from his “Simple Christmas” album.
He shined on “The First Noel,” “The Christmas Waltz,” and a personal favorite, “Winter Song.” On the classic “Ave Maria,” Odom’s voice was enchanting as he effortlessly delivered this widely-covered number by Franz Schubert.
The 38-year-old superstar asked permission to take a detour from the Christmas collection and present a song from “Hamilton” he loves to perform, “Wait for It.” The thunderous applause from the crowd was all the sign he needed that those in addition were fans of his work in the acclaimed production.
Showing his versatile musical pallet, Odom also performed his renditions of Mel Torme’s “Sunny Side of the Street;” the song “Christmas” from the Broadway musical “Tommy;” and the new year’s anthem that served as an in memoriam to loved ones lost, “Auld Lang Syne.”
While his performance reminded us to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” overall, Odom offered a mastery class in vocal delivery, all while humorously engaging the crowd and celebrating the orchestra and it’s conductor Steven Reineke.
Aside from Odom, Reineke directed NSP Pops through some additional holiday staples much to the delight of the crowd.
The Grammy Award-winning Choral Arts Society of Washington joined NSP Pops to sing the jubilant “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the gleeful “Christmas Time Is Here,” a song made famous by “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
But a breathtaking moment for NSO Pops and The Choral Arts Society was the incorporation of the Festival of Lights of the Hanukkah season. They performed a gorgeous new composition by Judith Clurman with David Chase called “Eight Days of Light” sung in Hebrew. An amazing moment!
A highlight of the night was the collective Jingle Jangle Sing-along with the audience, The Choral Arts Society and NSO Pops including a medley of Christmas favorites like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Jingle Bells.”
Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without an appearance by Santa Claus, who also got in on directing NSO Pops.