Boise Philharmonic's 'Holiday Pops' is a new holiday tradition that should continue

The Boise Philharmonic and Master Chorale unleashed its “Holiday Pops” this season with sold-out concerts at Nampa’s Swayne Auditorium and Boise’s Morrison Center this past weekend.

It's only been in the past four years that the philharmonic started regularly producing pops events — classical-style concerts filled with popular music. They have added a wonderful dimension to the philharmonic's programming.

Philharmonic Music Director Robert Franz put together this program of carols and other festive pieces with wit and panache.

Some were clever, such as the opening “Christmas Overture”— a delightful mix of holiday tunes laced with themes from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” — and the “Little Bolero Boy,” a mashup of “Bolero” and “Little Drummer Boy,” both arranged by Robert Wendel.

Others were sincere and touching, such as “Night Carols,” a blend of “Oh, Holy Night” and “Silent Night” beautifully sung by the chorale, and the music from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” featuring the lovely voice of Leta Neustaedter on the film’s theme song, which I never knew had words.

The orchestra played with an airy lightness that was perfect for the holiday motif, and the chorale sang beautifully.

Edwards Greenhouse charmingly dressed the Morrison Center stage with poinsettias, wreaths and a Christmas tree.

A warm and funny Franz spoke to the audience throughout the performance and was the perfect holiday host as he kept the audience engaged and laughing.

There were some incredibly charming moments: Franz pulled a small electric menorah out of shopping bag and plugged it in between the poinsettias before conducting “Hanukkah Festival Overture.” He asked for a volunteer who wanted to conduct the orchestra while he listened from the audience. It was a Santa-hatted 9-year-old named Jasmine who stepped to the podium. They had a cute and funny interchange before she led the orchestra in Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Franz then proceeded to later borrow Jasmine’s hat for the finale sing-along.

It was a delightful event that will surely become a lasting Treasure Valley tradition.