The 29th annual “Melodies of Christmas” opened tonight to a capacity crowd at Proctors. It is an extravaganza of sight and sound with more than 300 children involved in the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Empire State Youth Chorale and dancers from Northeast Ballet and Orlando School of Dance.
There were adult stars like baritone Arthur DeLuke, Ernie Williams and his five-piece band and emcees Liz Bishop and Greg Floyd of CBS 6. There were also the 75 walkabout characters like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a few dogs, a pirate, a chipmunk and Rudolph the reindeer running up and down the aisles waving at everyone.
Visually, the show was beautiful: the chorale’s red robes against the black orchestra, the winter mountain scenes on the scrims. Stocking caps graced the tops of the double basses.
With all of this happening along with all of those Christmas carol singalongs, it was hard not to enjoy yourself. And the crowd certainly did.
The ESYO under firebrand conductor Helen Cha-Pyo sounded terrific, and the chorale, which gathers only for “Melodies,” was amazing. For director Ned Fleischer to work for about seven weeks with the singers and get such great diction and such discipline is more than impressive.
The show’s organization was tight, and the pacing was expert. Every number went off like clockwork. The evening began with Williams, his guitarist and his hardworking saxophonist in “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Bishop, Floyd and show sponsors Neil Golub of Price Chopper and Bill Sullivan of Freihofer’s greeted the crowd.
The show is a fundraiser for the Albany Medical Center’s Children Hospital and to date has raised $5.7 million.
After a couple of carols, several Northeast Ballet dancers performed two short dances and Orlando’s dancers did a small skit. How everyone managed to jump and turn in that small space was a miracle. DeLuke sang “O Holy Night” with a rich baritone and sold the song as if it were a great opera aria.
After a brass fanfare from the balcony, trumpeter Anthony Bellino soloed in “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby.” His sweet tone and unforced, easy phrasing were pleasing. The orchestra also took a solo in Strauss’ “Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.”
Williams and his band dug in for two blues numbers, more carols followed and nine children from the medical center sang “Silent Night” with everyone. The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” ended the evening.
The show continues through Sunday and will be broadcast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.