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Pops singers shine with ASO

by Eric E. Harrison | December 19, 2015 at 2:56 a.m.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's "Holiday Pops With the ASO!" program is a bit of a grab bag, familiar tunes sung in unfamiliar but enjoyable settings by unfamiliar (at least to ASO audiences) but enjoyable singers.

The first half of the show was on the rough-and-not-entirely-ready side Friday night at Pulaski Academy's Connor Performing Arts Center in west Little Rock. But it earns brownie points for using entirely local talent, and considerably talented locals at that.

Soprano Christine Westhoff took pre-intermission honors with her outstanding performance of "O Holy Night" and, with a choir of 14 adorable children (assembled by director Timothy Allen, Westhoff's husband), "What Child Is This." The kids shone in a bit of J.S. Bach -- the "Sleepers Awake" chorale from Cantata No. 140 -- and an updated arrangement of "Silent Night."

Actress Courtney Bennett joyously enacted Clement Moore's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," while the orchestra played a musical setting by Aaron Dai. A dozen brass players, divided into three antiphonal sections, hit most of the notes in the Canzon Noni Toni by Giovanni Gabrieli.

On the second half, classically trained honky-tonker Bonnie Montgomery channeled her inner Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, respectively, in "Pretty Paper," "Blue Christmas" (on guitar, with conductor Geoffrey Robson on the electric fiddle) and "Little Drummer Boy" (all of the rump-a-tum-tums in the orchestra, none in the lyrics).

Gospel singer Vickie Woodard rocked the house with her jazzy "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and a joyous semisermon in "Joy to the World." All three soloists lead a closing Christmas sing­along.

All reassemble at 7:30 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday at Pulaski Academy, 12701 Hinson Road, Little Rock. Ticket information is available by calling (501) 666-1761 or online at

Metro on 12/19/2015

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