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The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sunday, December 24, 1995





Kunzel, Pops give slick gift to city



TheCincinnati Enquirer


      Cincinnati, set your VCRs.  The Cincinnati Pops Holiday national television debut on PBS today is going to blow away the competition (9 p.m. Channels 48, 16, 54).

      A historic first for the Cincinnati Pops, the show, produced by Phillip Byrd, captures the essence of Pops conductor Erich Kunzel and the orchestra in a colorful, upbeat and professional presentation.  Editing is slick, and camera angles are well-planned.  One has a sense of the grandeur of Music Hall as cameras shoot from every feasible corner.

      Views of the audience in holiday finery are impressive, and orchestra close-ups are imaginative.  One of the most memorable cameos is of guest artist Mel Torme, 70, crooning “The Christmas Song” that he wrote 50 years ago, ringed by seated children from the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

      Best of all, spectacular lighting (by William Greenfield) shows off Music Hall as a glowing jewel in holiday splendor.  Extra scenes include Christmas card views of Music Hall’s exterior, the train display at the Cincinnati Zoo and historical sketches.  The show opens with the “Mr. Pops” animation that Kunzel plans to use as his trademark in future telecasts.

      Kunzel’s presence is strong, and his holiday spectacle is visually entertaining. Despite the variety – the Indiana University Singing Hoosiers, The SCPA Children’s Chorus, The Studio Cloggers, Nutcracker soldiers, Christmas characters, fireworks and “snow” – it has continuity.

      Sound pickup (by audio producer John McClure) is generally good, with occasional moments when the chorus is not heard well above the orchestra.  But Kunzel’s musical arrangements are top-notch, and the adrenalin flows.

      The Pops can be proud.  It’s a fitting holiday gift to Cincinnati.