Review: HOLLYWOOD HOLIDAYS at Riveview Performing Arts Center


By: Dec. 12, 2022
Review: HOLLYWOOD HOLIDAYS at Riveview Performing Arts Center

The Pops Orchestra celebrates the holiday season with the Hollywood Holidays concert led by its imaginative and ever-entertaining music director, Dr. Robyn Bell. The long list of amazing holiday films is only surpassed by their wonderful soundtracks. With new videos from SCF film students, it's holiday cinemagic on the Pops Orchestra's concert stage.

In their 47th season and 10th year under the direction of Maestro Dr. Robyn Bell, the Pops Orchestra hits another high note with a combination of iconic Hollywood holiday movie scores played in sync with a cinematic backdrop of scenes from those films. That type of production coordination can leave the door wide open for disaster, but the Maestro was well up to the task and the orchestra closely followed her lead in to perfection.

Concertmaster Nikki Rinsema started the program with a rousing version of Another Op'nin', Another Show from Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me Kate. Shortly thereafter Robyn Bell made her way to the rostrum with a spirited ovation from the audience. Throughout the rest of the first half of the concert the audience was treated to a playful rendition of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the sweet tones of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Somewhere in My Memory (from Home Alone), everyone's favorite Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and 'Twas The Night Before Christmas narrated by Chris Bellanca. The scenes from the movies that accompanied the songs were such a sweet added bonus that brought back memories of watching these classic films with friends and family. It really added a touch of warm fuzzies to the program. Of course, we were also treated to Robyn Bell's charming personality always interacting with the audience with interesting movie fun facts and those jokes we love to boo that she is known for, - "it's the holidays, you can't boo me", "we had a chance to change out the soap in the restrooms - did you notice the Santa- tizer?", "the movie Home Alone grossed $476 million dollars and oddly enough that is our budget for next year!" Some of the orchestrations were penned by Robyn who didn't miss one nuance to connect the sound of an instrument to a particular scene in a movie. This was especially cleverly highlighted during the narration of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and was notedly appreciated by chuckles from the crowd.

The second half of the concert offered beautiful renderings of I'll Be Home for Christmas, We Need a Little Christmas, A Christmas Carol - Main Theme, and a great ominous version of The Nightmare Before Christmas. One of my favorite holiday movie scores is the exquisite songs from The Polar Express. I've never had the opportunity to hear it played live and it absolutely captured me. The energetic Polar Express theme mixed with the heartwarming When Christmas Comes to Town was pure ear candy. A fun fact Robyn told us about before playing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas from the film Meet Me In St Louis was that Judy Garland wouldn't sing the song unless the lyrics were changed. Apparently, the original version was "have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last, have yourself a merry little Christmas, next year we may all be living in the past"! What? Thank you, Miss Garland. The final song, Tiny Tim's exclamation, God Bless Us Everyone from A Christmas Carol was a delightful end to this beautifully orchestrated concert, paired with a screen full of glowing holiday candles and snowfall.

Conductor Bell states, "I am convinced that the reason we all love holiday movies is because of the amazing music written to accompany them. Imagine Home Alone or Polar Express without those fabulous soundtracks! For this year's Pops holiday show, we are bringing you all those fantastic Hollywood holiday film scores, with an added bonus of original films produced by State College of Florida Film Program students to sync with our musical medleys. It will be a musical and video treat of epic proportions!"

Special accolades:

Chris Bellanca
Chris narrated 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and has been teaching film production at State College of Florida since 2007. Michael La Placa
Michael edited the videos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Somewhere In My Memory, and We Need a Little Christmas.
Delaney Recupero
Delaney edited Miracle On 34th Street, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, and The Polar Express.
Lake Simms
The pieces Lake made for this performance are God Bless Us Everyone, White Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Maxx Sorba
Maxx created the visuals for the orchestra's renditions of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol (2009), and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The Pops tagline is Music you love, musicians you know. Very true. As a musician myself, I am always looking for great live music. Working in the recording industry in Nashville for many years, I was blessed to work with top-notch studio musicians, singers who have perfected their vocals, and recording engineers who have mastered their craft. I have a deep appreciation of community theatre and community orchestras where I get a kick out of seeing my dentist tickling the keyboards, my pastor laying out the rhythm on the drums, and my next-door neighbor tooting a flute. The Pops Orchestra musicians ranging in age from 13 to 88 have no less fervor for the pieces they play than the pros I work with in Music City. The Pops Orchestra is comprised of a mixture of professional musicians and impassioned locals that make for a cohesive group of dynamic renderings. The icing on the cake is the woman at the helm. Watching the elegance of Maestra Robyn Bell slice the air with her passion-filled baton, hearing her incredible repertoire of eclectic varieties of orchestrations, and participating in her fun-filled audience interactions is a show unto itself. Maestro and her Pops never disappoint. Congrats on a concert well done. Happy Holidays to our Pops!

About conductor Dr. Robyn Bell:

Known for her innovative thematic programming as well as informative, witty, and entertaining audience talks, Dr. Bell has taken the Florida pops orchestra music scene by storm. From Rhapsody in Blue to Carmina Burana, Brahms to Bernstein, Williams to Sondheim, Robyn leads pops orchestras with her dynamic personality, musical presence, and precise baton technique. Every concert bursts with wonderfully performed music cleverly integrated knowledge about each piece and most of all, fun! Robyn has conducted the Pops Orchestra for nearly a decade. She is the Director of Instrumental Studies at the State College of Florida, conductor and music director of the Bradenton Symphony Orchestra, and former conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra Youth Symphony. She has guest conducted the Venice Symphony in Venice, Florida, and the Sterling Municipal Concert Band in Sterling, Illinois. Robyn has a Master's Degree in Instrumental Conducting from the University of Tennessee and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from Boston University. Bell has received the Silver Baton Award from Women Band Directors International and has been recognized by the Georgia Music Educators Association for her outstanding contributions to music education. She was awarded the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association and was made an honorary life member of Tau Beta Sigma, a national band sorority dedicated to serving college band programs.

You can access Maestro Bell's Suncoast Culture Club podcasts at To learn more about Dr. Robyn Bell visit For more on the Pops Orchestra and their upcoming programs visit