NSO Pops: ‘Happy Holidays! with Brian Stokes Mitchell’ by Marlene Hall

Tony Award winner and Baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell and the NSO Pops got the crowd into the holiday spirit with his show Happy Holidays! With Brian Stokes Mitchell, conducted with gusto by Steven Reineke. Special guests included Tedd Firth on piano, Alex Arshadi on drums, and the University of Maryland Concert Choir.

Brian Stokes Mitchell. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.
Brian Stokes Mitchell. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

The show featured Mitchell lending his gorgeous voice to classic holiday songs, including “We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame to “Through Heaven’s Eyes” (from the movie The Prince of Egypt), to the lesser-known, but poignant, “Some Children See Him” by Alfred Burt. “Burt,” shared Mitchell, “would send songs to people for Christmas.”

Throughout the concert, Mitchell chatted amiably with the crowd. He called the NSO his “second home.” What I admire most about ‘Stokes’ is that when he sings a song, he becomes the character who is singing the song. While performing “You’re a Mean One Mister Grinch” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, his facial expressions and body movements were hysterical! Another highlight was Mitchell singing from a child’s point in a child’s voice on “Christmas is About Me!”

Mitchell provided some of the arrangements and was accompanied by his friend Firth on some of the songs. The University of Maryland Concert Choir provided heavenly accompaniment and the gorgeous singing sent chills up and down my spine.

Sixteen year-old drummer Arshadi brilliantly joined Mitchell for “Little Drummer Boy” and knocked it out of the park. Mitchell briefly interviewed Arshadi asking him where he studied. Answer: “South Lakes High School.” I think Mitchell meant study drums, so then Arshadi answered he studied under NSO percussionist Eric Shin. “Have you ever played at The Kennedy Center?” “Yes.” “Ever play on this stage?” “Yes.” “Ever play with the NSO?” ‘No.” The crowd cheered. Mitchell praised Arshadi for his pose and grace, “because being in front of a large crowd can be terrifying.” Arshandi was not terrified because he was thoroughly enjoying himself.

In the final part of the concert, the audience joined Mitchell and Santa Claus on “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” and “Silent Night.” As Santa Claus walked off the stage, a little boy rushed up to him and gave him his wish list for Christmas. So precious!!

Run and buy tickets to this joyous concert before it ends on Saturday night. Listening to the gorgeous voice of Brian Stokes Mitchell is always a reason to celebrate.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one intermission.

Happy Holidays! With Brian Stokes Mitchell plays through Saturday, December 14th, 2014 at the Concert Hall at The Kennedy Center—2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 416-4600, or purchase them online.  

Brian Stokes Mitchell’s website.


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