Opera Omaha’s Healing Arts Concerts are always a treat, however, the holiday set was delightful in its respect to both rich operatic craft and the festive season. I’m accustomed to earwormy pop renditions during the month of December and, to my dismay, the premature launch of cheer in November after the turkeys have been eaten. My habit is to bob my head but pay them no more mind than that. I’ve never felt captured by musical Christmas staples. The Holland Community Opera Fellows, José Maldonado, Jessica Johnson Brock, Kate Pomrenke, and Chabrelle Williams, sang classics that are often made plastic by repetition for high grossing albums such as White Christmas by Berlin, Silent Night, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Blythe and Martin, and The Christmas Song by Tormé & Wells. The songs were reinvigorated at the Healing Arts Holiday concert by the robust reverence with which the singers delivered them, interspersed with songs that are less likely to be covered by pop artists, such as The Lord’s Prayer by Malotte, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night by Adam, Gesu Bambino by Yon, and Panis Angelicus by Franck.
UNMC is infused with good spirit through decor. In the front lobby, listeners sat in casual seating and along with the lobby furniture. For the first hour the Fellows sang across from a huge tree draped in gold and silver ornaments brushing the ceiling of the hospital, and then they went upstairs for an encore of the set in the Chihuly Sanctuary. While we were not blanketed in the atmosphere of a White Christmas, the large, twisting, and vibrant glasswork of Dale Chihuly was brightened by the music. The songs felt deep and meaningful and the concert served as a reminder to me that, when sung with soul and true passion, music of the holidays has endured hundreds of years of performances and recordings for a reason.
Many who walked the halls of the Center were not present under good circumstances; however, we hope that their time there was able to be soothed somewhat. There were cathartic tears, pauses in routine both for patients and for staff members, and for some is was a pleasant surprise. If you didn’t have a chance to stop by we hope we’ll see you at other events out in the community next year!