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BWW Review: SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY at Strathmore

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An angelic holiday home run!

BWW Review: SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY at Strathmore
Sarah Brightman. Photo by Oliver Sommers.

World renowned singer/actress/killer soprano Sarah Brightman has a voice that is so angelic sounding it literally takes you to a higher power. Her current tour A Christmas Symphony was a prime example of Ms. Brightman's ridiculously high and soaring vocal range and made the Music Center at Strathmore a heavenly place to be.

Right out of the box was "Ave Maria" which put me in a state of audible bliss. Then the concert changed gears with a Christian pop song called "Better is One Day" and I knew this was not going to be your standard holiday concert.

Following that vocal goodness Ms. Brightman was joined onstage by Romanian tenor Narcis for a beautiful duet called "Walking in the Air". That was followed by a star solo turn for Narcis with a jaw-dropping rendition of "O Holy Night". Also, dueting with Ms. Brightman was Jay Dref for the title song from "Phantom of the Opera" and "Sogni". Mr. Dref has a Josh Groban vocal quality that was totally pleasing to the ear on his solo "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

If I had to pick a few favorites from this concert there are two that definitely come to mind.

The first is Ms. Brightman's act one closer "Nessun Dorma". I don't know what measures she takes to keep her voice in good shape but the end note alone was worth the price of admission.

The second was one of the quieter moments in the concert and it is a song that deals with people having a hard time during the holidays. It was entitled "Colder Than Winter" and featured Gunther Laudahn on guitar (he also plays mandolin, percussion and more). It was nice to have a somber moment after so many WOW pieces and gave all of us a moment of reflection. Sometimes you just need that.

This tour travels with Ms. Brightman's rhythm section (guitar, drums, and concertmaster) then picks up a sizeable string section (including an ACTUAL LIVE harp) and a fifteen-member choir at each tour stop. Kudos to musical director Ollie Cunningham for pulling all of those components together. You usually get a four hour or less rehearsal so it's not a lot of time.

Having said that, I do wish that the rest of the orchestra (reeds, horns) was actually present and not tracked in. Maybe the general public can't tell the difference but if you hear it and don't see it then it's obvious.

Along those same lines, I thought the lighting became a distraction more than an enhancement. There were too many moving instruments and the transitions just looked very jagged in their timing.

Overall, Sarah Brightman's A Christmas Symphony audibly is an angelic holiday home run! Just close your eyes and let her and the soloists take you to a very good place for a couple of hours this holiday season.

Running Time: Two hours and five minutes with one intermission.

Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony was a two-night engagement at the Music Center at Strathmore on December 6th and 7th, 2021. For upcoming events at Strathmore, click here. For the remainder of Ms. Brightman's holiday tour dates, click here.


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