Holiday With Friends


In September 2006, just three years before his untimely death, Maestro Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, released his delightful CD, Christmastime Is Here. Far more than a workaday compilation of Christmas melodies, the Prince of Pops' album is distinguished by his inimitable glistening touch and appearances by some very special guests.

Ann Hampton Callaway, who catapulted from her success as a cabaret singer to a starring role in the Broadway musical Swing!, switches gears for a soulful rendition of the Appalachian classic, "I Wonder As I Wander." Her surprise humming at the end of the song is worth its weight in gold.

Another undisputed hot property, Tony DeSare, transports us to nostalgia land with the sweetest rendition of Mel Tormé's wonderful "The Christmas Song," aka "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire." And the inimitable John Pizzarelli closes the CD with a most endearing version of "Silver Bells."

One big surprise is the rendition of the album's title track by the Children's Choir of Cincinnati's School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Originally featured on the Vince Guaraldi Trio's  A Charlie Brown Christmas, the track bubbles along sweetly until its unexpected pop bridge. A more traditional interpretation awaits with The King's Singers' lovely rendition (in German) of "Silent Night." But given that this is Erich Kunzel's show, every snowflake that falls on the CD's 14 tracks tinkles and glistens with the brightness of his touch.

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    Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

    Ann Hampton Callaway, from This Christmas