The sounds of the holidays - both Christmas and Chanukah - filled the Reg Lenna Civic Center on Thursday evening, when the Jamestown Concert Association brought Symphony Syracuse to town for an evening of holiday pops.
There was a day when it seemed a shame to bring an entire symphony orchestra to perform light holiday fare which could be done equally well by a solo piano or guitar, but in recent years, the quality of the music played and the composition of the program has gotten vastly better. This was a wonderfully enjoyable evening.
The orchestra was conducted by Sean O'Loughlin, an energetic young man who had arranged many of the holiday works for full orchestra.
Guest soloist was singer Amanda Brasher, an attractive young woman in a beautiful, dark green dress and sky-high heels. Ms. Brasher had a lovely, clear voice. The musical arrangements kept her mostly in her lower register, which was clear and strong, but when called upon, she could ascend into the heights, just as well.
Two of the five arrangements by O'Loughlin were being performed for the first time. Both avoided the most common holiday arrangement style, which involves the orchestra just playing most of a popular carol and then modulating into a second, etc. His arrangements used unusual rhythms, syncopations, and unexpected instrumentation, such as finger cymbals, and they include less common carols, such as ''Pat-a-Pan,'' with most appealing results.
The conductor included scores from Hollywood films associated with the holiday season, including ''Polar Express,'' by Sylvestri, and ''Home Alone,'' by John Williams, which were a nice variety among the ''Jingle Bells'' and the ''Winter Wonderlands.''
For the most part, the orchestra was well disciplined and strong. The horns in the demanding ''Waltz of the Flowers'' from Tchaikovsky's ''Nutcracker'' were perfectly spot-on.
Perhaps the greatest distance between very good and not very good came in a beautiful arrangement, near the end of the concert, by Cal Custer, of ''Silent Night.'' The piece began with a simply lovely, sad-sounding duet between cellist, Lindsay Groves and pianist, Bonnie Choi, but when the orchestra joined the unison within the strong parts had left the building two songs too soon.
In all, it was a merry and energetic concert, musically strong and most enjoyable. Symphony Syracuse formed out of the disarray when the Syracuse Symphony went into bankruptcy, a few years ago. Now there is news that the orchestra is being financially and managerially re-organized, and Jamestown joins the city of Syracuse in welcoming the new orchestra with a new name, not year announced, for what we hope will be many, many years to come.
The next concert on the JCA schedule will be March 15, when guitarist Paul Galbraith performs a solo, classical concert at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.