Christmas in New York with David Phelps
Review by Eunice Snay
The lines to the performance were long heading into Carnegie Hall. The performance was held in the Stern Auditorium on the Perelman Stage that’s up a level from the entrance. So we all started up the stairs where tickets were scanned. Up more stairs to the Orchestra Level for those that had tickets on this level. We had tickets up another level in Tier 1, so up more stairs to that level. Down a long hall to doors to each section where they had chairs that got taller and taller for guest to have a great view of the show. This hall has additional second tier and dress circle seating up more levels that were mostly filled. I'm certain there are elevators for those that need them.
The American Festival Choir was already seated. It made sense because how else would you bring in all 360 of them. This choir is from 13 different church choirs around the US. They are oodles, mass, tons; you get the picture, a lot of great voices that came together for this evening’s performance.
Jack Daniels took his seat at the piano. David began the evening with the first 2 songs, his own: “Hark the Herald” and “Joy, Joy” to start it off just right. It was then the American Festival Choir sang the world premier of the “The Hope of Christmas”. This performance was a WOW. All of those voices, all of the great music in this hall with its great acoustics that just wrapped you in song. Marcia Ware sang “Mary Did You Know” by Mark Lowry and Buddy Green, arranged a little different than David sings it, but really showed off her own style. She has a great and powerful voice to be sure. The American Festival Choir continued with an audience sing-along, like there was a need for more voices, but it was fun being included. Jack Daniels came back again first, so you knew David wasn’t far behind. After an introduction David returned to the stage to sing his arrangement of “O Holy Night”. It was fabulous! David sings this song like no other. We then were treated to “The Singer”, this has becoming one of my favorite pieces that David sings.
Off to intermission where the American Festival Choir relaxed with each other and they talked with the audience. When intermission was done they re-group and it was back to their seats. Coming back again was Jack Daniels as he walked the stage. With anticipation growing, David returned to sing “Tonight” by Gloria and Benjamin Gaither and his own “One Wintry Night”. All night long the pieces that were chosen to tell of the birth of Jesus. The American Festival Choir sang a few more pieces. Marcia Ware came back to sing “Children, Go where I send thee”. Then Mike Harland performed an arrangement by David of “This Little Child”.
Back came Jack Daniels crossing the stage. I have to say here the stage is large ... but small because of the large American Festival Choir on stage. When Jack goes to his piano, he crosses the stage over and around a conductor’s podium. When David and Marcia sing it’s in a space of about 4’x4’. They didn’t have much space to move around much less get very animated as is usually the case for David when he belts out his songs. David began “End if the Beginning” looking around at the watchful faces of the audience and recalling a past performance of this song at this hall recorded for “God Bless America, DVD Live from Carnegie Hall” released in 2002 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut0_tcsZVZU
** well as he said too much reminiscing and watching all those joyful faces and not about the lyrics. He took a second go at the song again. Again the first few lines escaped him, but being a trooper, he continued along and with the American Festival Choir joining him for this enormous rendition, finishing strong and mighty. This song has a power of its own in just the lyrics, David’s sings this with powerfulness but with all of these voices it was tremendous. The evening ended with the American Festival Choir and David singing a “Messiah Medley” that included the Hallelujah Chorus. It brought everyone to their feet.
David wasn’t the only one that had a mishap: where we were sitting there’s a rail at about your knee when standing. My husband told me no standing. We’ll I can’t help myself; I need to show my support of David. I stood up only to fall back into my seat. At the end of the evening I stood again, bracing myself and taking a step back. It would not have been a pretty sight my falling over the rail onto those below.
What a wonderful night, I said it before the whole night we were wrapped in song. It felt like it was washing over us. My husband agreed this was great evening of song; he’s the true critic in the family. I enjoy each and every performance that I’ve ever attended by David, at the various venues. I’ll add this to the list of delightful evenings. This year David was able to travel here safely [it wasn’t snowing].
When leaving David had a table set up with some of his Christmas DVD's and CD's. I have then all already, but I did pick up a great picture of David singing that I'll enjoy.
** This YouTube link of the 2002 performance will give you a sense of the Hall, I’m certain that you’ve all seen this in the past; it’s been watched by many of us over and over again.