Wednesday, 23 December 2015
The National Arts Centre Orchestra “Holiday Sparkle”
with Emilie-Claire Barlow and David Myles
NAC Southam Hall
Friday, December 18, 2015 – 7 p.m.
“When we said 'Holiday Sparkle', we meant it”, vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow told the audience at the NAC Orchestra's Christmas show. There was even an orchestra dress code for this show that encouraged sparkly fabrics, she explained – and her own bright gold sequined dress had no problems fitting in.
But while visually the show did indeed sparkle, musically it dragged. This was not because of the musicianship: both the orchestra and the featured musicians sounded crisp, enthusiastic, and well-coordinated, but rather a programme that lacked focus and diffused its energy into too many paths.
The NAC tried to reach the singer-songwriter and roots audiences with Maritimer David Myles; the classical audience with Ralph Vaughan Williams; and the jazz crowd with Barlow, and didn't give quite enough to any of them in the 100 minutes of music to be really satisfying.
The show opened with two pieces by the orchestra: a pleasant medley of Christmas carols (appropriate as an overture), and an unexciting “Fantasia on Greensleeves” by Vaughan Williams. Then Myles sang four original songs, mostly from his recently-released It's Christmas album, including “It's Christmas”, “The Gift”, and the delightful Roger Miller-influenced “Santa never brings me a banjo”.