Columbus Symphony’s ‘Holiday Pops’ Returns With A New Take on the Classics


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From its founding in 1983 until its last live performance before the pandemic in 2019, the Columbus Symphony’s “Holiday Pops” were a staple of the region’s holiday concert scene.

Last year, the pandemic necessitated a break in this tradition: instead of live performances of “Holiday Pops”, the symphony performed, without an audience, a “Holiday Spectacular” broadcast on WCMH-TV (Channel 4) and WBNS -TV (Channel 10).

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This year, “Holiday Pops” is back: in-person crowds will be greeted at concerts at the Ohio Theater from December 3-5. (One of the shows will be taped for later broadcast on WSYX-TV (Channel 6), Urban One TV and Telemundo.)

But the long layoff between “Holiday Pops” encouraged those in charge of the symphony orchestra to reinvent the venerable program.

“This is a whole new ‘Holiday Pops’,” said Daniel Walshaw, vice president of operations and artistic planning for the symphony orchestra.

“This is going to sound more like ‘Radio City Christmas Spectacular’ than a traditional, more classic ‘Holiday Pops’,” Walshaw said. “It’s really going to get splashed.”

Much of that splash will be provided by guest singer Capathia Jenkins.

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The Brooklyn native and Georgia resident will make her debut with the symphony.

“She’s amazing,” said Pops principal conductor Stuart Chafetz, who will direct the shows and who previously worked with Jenkins in orchestras outside of Columbus.

“The crowds just love him,” he said. “I think people will be blown away by her because she is a force of nature.”

Singer Capathia Jenkins to perform in "Holiday pops."

Unlike the “Holiday Pops,” which focused more on the symphony itself rather than a single guest artist, Jenkins will be featured on songs throughout the concerts. Some of the holiday must-haves to be performed by the singer include “Winter Wonderland”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.

Jenkins recognizes that the music can be familiar, but relies on her vocal chops – and the musicality of the symphony – to breathe new life into old tunes.

“As a member of the audience, maybe they came from the grocery store and heard the same song,” she said. “But it’s different when you’re with us and it’s happening live. Stuart raises the baton and off we go.

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Jenkins will also sing sacred music, including the contemporary song “Mary, Did You Know?” and the classic Christmas carol “O Holy Night”.

“When you hear Capathia sing ‘O Holy Night’ you won’t believe it,” said Chafetz. “When we think of ‘O Holy Night’ we think of a very quiet little melody. It’s a full orchestral finale.

The Columbus Children’s Choir, which will perform in front of the orchestra rather than at the top of the stage, will be presented to tunes such as “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and “This Christmastide”. The choir members will also perform music commemorating Chanukah, which began on November 28 and ends on December 6 of this year.

“Hanukkah is over our ‘Holiday Pops’ weekend this year, and we’re doing three Hanukkah songs by a really fantastic arranger,” Walshaw said.

The novelty of “Holiday Pops” this year will be the participation of dancers and drummers from the Institut Thiossane, who will present the movement and music of West African culture.

“It will be a really special part of the program,” said Walshaw. “We’re seeing something completely different that’s never been on a ‘Holiday Pops’ before.”

The Columbus Symphony Chorus, absent this year, was absent from the Ohio Theater stages during the pandemic; 60 of its 120 members performed at First Congregational Church last month, but the ensemble won’t be heard in concerts at the Ohio Theater until next year.

“We didn’t want to put a lot of singers on stage towards the orchestra,” Walshaw said. “We always try to be very careful.”

Pandemic precautions aside, the performers promise concerts full of joy and gratitude.

“It’s well overdue,” said Chafetz. “I can smell it in the air.”

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Holiday Pops at a Glance

The Columbus Symphony Holiday Pops will be played at 8 p.m. on December 3 and 3 p.m. on December 4 and 5. in the Ohio Theater, 39 E. State St. Masks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test required. Customers are encouraged to use the Bindle recording app. Tickets cost from $ 25 to $ 78. For more information, visit www.columbussymphony.com.

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