PERFORMING ARTS

The National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore. Over the weekend the orchestra and its chorus presented an emotional
The National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore. Over the weekend the orchestra and its chorus presented an emotional "Messiah." (By Jill Bochicchio)

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Andy Williams

Easy-listening crooner Andy Williams has not so much mellowed with age as aged into his innate mellowness. At DAR Constitution Hall Saturday night he sang -- and danced! -- with a vigor seemingly impossible for a 79-year-old man, gliding onstage while singing his signature holiday tune, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Age has taken some of the effortless timbre Williams's voice once possessed, but give the guy a break.

After four more Christmas songs drenched in the schmaltzy tones of his 10-piece band's three keyboards, Williams stopped, puzzlingly, to answer questions submitted by audience members before the concert. This lasted 20 minutes -- as long as the opening set of songs -- during which those dying to know how Williams stays in shape or whether that's his real hair (it is) had their Christmas wishes granted.

Williams was charming and good-humored throughout this long interlude, peppering his answers with jokes, one of them even vaguely PG-rated.

Some surprising song choices finished out the first half: Chris de Burgh's "Lady in Red" held up to the lounge treatment, and "Every Breath You Take" sounded oddly close to the Police's 1983 original. Before he sang the Backstreet Boys' "I'll Never Break Your Heart," Williams commented, "I love the song -- it's the Backstreet Boys I don't like," as though reassuring a troubled constituency.

Introducing "The Shadow of Your Smile," 1965's Oscar winner for best song, he lamented that this year's winner was called "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" -- apparently oblivious that the bright red suit and canary-yellow handkerchief he wore made him look more than a little ghetto-fabulous himself.

Returning for Act 2 in a tuxedo, Williams returned to familiar territory, performing his early-'60s hits ("Days of Wine and Roses," "Can't Get Used to Losing You") with surprising power. Another half-dozen Christmas songs preceded his finale, "Moon River," which he introduced as "my favorite Christmas song."

It was predictable, it was conservative, and judging by the response of an audience made up largely of Williams's contemporaries, it was exactly what they wanted for Christmas.

-- Chris Klimek

National Philharmonic: 'Messiah'

This time of year, Handel's "Messiah" comes packaged in all shapes and colors. The National Philharmonic's rendition of the choral masterpiece resounded with vocal vibrancy Saturday evening at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Under the baton of Patrick Walders, associate conductor of the National Philharmonic Chorale, the chorus and orchestra emphasized the oratorio's drama so much that it sounded nearly operatic.


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