Of all the ways to usher in the season, the Holiday Pops ranks among the most graceful and elegant. That notion coursed through Wednesday’s opening night at Symphony Hall, an evening that at its heart was a communal celebration, even ending in a sing-a-long far more lighthearted than most performances at the hallowed venue.
Conductor Keith Lockhart, looking festive with a splash of red from his vest and bow tie peeking out from his black tuxedo, led the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a program that struck a tasteful balance between the sacred and the secular.
Reverent and stately, “Hallelujah Chorus” and “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker prefaced a rendition of “The Christmas Song” that was as warm and glowing as those chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
The program put a premium on diverse moods, from the swing and sway of “Holly Jolly Jingle,” which opened the second half, to the jazzy overtones of “Frosty All the Way!” Baritone James Demler guided a somber “Fantasia on Christmas Carols.” He later got to loosen up a bit on the comical “Christmas Is a Comin’.”
“Songs Mama Taught Me,” a salute to Hanukkah, was a nice addition to the repertoire.
Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton was the guest narrator for “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
“Don’t make him mad, ladies and gentlemen,” Lockhart joked after noting Thornton’s reputation as a tough guy. Thornton kept perfect pace with the orchestra.
The Pops’ take on “The 12 Days of Christmas” was remarkable. A juggernaut of disparate influences, it spliced the original melody with snippets of everything from “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”