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Christmas Cheer from Symphony

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Solist Cathy Van and the Symphony of the Americas Solist Cathy Van and the Symphony of the Americas

As usual the Symphony of the Americas put a smile on everyone's face and a warm glow in every heart with their annual Christmas concert in Ft. Lauderdale.

Maestro James Brooks-BruzzeseMaestro James Brooks-BruzzeseStar of the show, under the usual masterful baton of James Brooks-Bruzzese (shown here in his festive red vest and bow tie) was guest soloist Frank Loconto. He was the lead singer with The Lane Brothers from 1957-1979, a group best known for the 1958 recording Boppin' In A Sack (you can hear it on YouTube). The title refers to a 'sack dress' that was popular at the time; it looked like a sack because it did not taper in at the waist. Not exactly high fashion, but it made for a groovy song!

Frank currently hosts a daily public policy show, Countyline, on local cable television throughout South Florida.

With a resounding voice that has been his trademark for decades, Frank delighted the audience with the classics Winter Wonderland and Silver Bells before doing a duet with the evening's other soloist, Cathy Van. She put her heart into the song and really made a connection with audience in post-World War 2 tune by Bob Wells and Mel Torme, The Christmas Song.

It was one of the selections highlghted in a pre-concert talk, which was merely summarised as the host of the talk was unable to deliver his address. The song was said to embody "Home, safety, togetherness, chestnuts, warmth: all these wonderful things that make a relaxing Christmas. Their song has never gone out of style. In good times and bad it has always spoken of the true spirit of the holiday in a different way than the Nutcracker."

Singer Frank Leconto with Sylvia RivasSinger Frank Leconto with Sylvia RivasIt was two selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker that opened the holiday concert, and a rousing rendition of Havah Nagilah that opened the second half. The audience happily clapped to the beat on that one!

Whiule the inclusion of a tune from Phantom of the Opera gave another chance for the soloists to perform a duet, it hardly fit the theme of the evening. The second half did, however, feature more intriguing inclusions: Dear Granma, and There's Christmas in the Air. The former tune, sung by Cathy Van, was arranged by orchestra member Peter Graves. 

The slide show on the screen behind the orchestra was a great idea although some of the slides seemed to embody little emotional  contact with the songs, and the images were sometimes hard to discern because of the bright lights shining on stage.

Connie Francis with Dr. EmanueleConnie Francis with Dr. EmanueleThere were three special guests in attendance at the concert. Shown here is the great and much beloved singer Connie Francis, who graced the Broward Center with her presence in the audience.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance towards the end to help the audience sing Feliz Navidad, although the tune itself was somewhat lost in the excitement of the arrival from the North Pole. Let There Be Peace ended the concert on a note of hope with the audience singing along. An uplifting way to end another Christmas concert from Symphony of the Americas, now in their 29th season.

Their next concert, on Jan. 10. 2017. will feature the keyboard duo of Dunlap & Pennington.  For more info visit their website:

This review due to the combined effort of Dr. Matt Emanuele and Sylvia Rivas.

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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