A big thank you to Front Row Reviewers written By Kathryn Olsen for the review of Vanessa Joy and the Celtic Celebration concert. Review below.

It’s a rare delight to find an Irish jig in a school auditorium, but the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra‘s A Celtic Celebration with guest vocalist Vanessa Joy and pianist Marvin Goldstein transported every person in the auditorium at Timberline Middle School in Alpineto the Emerald Isle and beyond on Saturday night. While not every piece on the program was originally Irish, they were all arranged so deftly into the Celtic musical style that it was easy to overlook that minor detail. Keyboard player Brian Jensen was responsible for the arrangements themselves and the program that Joy and Goldstein have performed nationwide invoked fond memories of my first trip to Ireland.

Joy’s vocals reflect the best stylings of Irish and Scottish music, which is often less decorative or bold than other musical genres. In Celtic music, the story comes to the forefront of the song and the musical talent is a supplement. While Joy began the performance with a spirited and up-tempo rendition of Josh Groban‘s “You Raise Me Up.” her interpretation of “Shenandoah” that followed immediately was soulful. Her range is both impressive and unexpected, as she sings ballads with traditional coloratura, but also performs Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Pie Jesu” with a full-throated operatic timbre and “Nocturne” as a kind of lullaby. Her brief forays into fiddle music were lively and light-hearted and kept feet tapping throughout the auditorium.

Goldstein himself is an entertainer with more than 50 professional recordings, 15 books of piano solos and many accolades. This is evident every time he sets fingers to keyboard or accordion, but one of his greatest features is his humorous showmanship. This is a man who accepted audience requests for improvisations and managed to play a jazz version of “Memory” from Cats, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, and even a humorous riff on the beloved children’s song, “Book of Mormon Stories.” One orchestra member intimated after the performance that the constant banter between Joy, Goldstein, and conductor John Pew was unrehearsed and rendered more hilarious for its spontaneity. When playing a supporting role to Joy’s vocals, he is skilled and precise in his technique.

The Timpanogos Chorale provided appropriate and heartfelt choral support for many of the numbers and was an indispensable part of the evening. Pew mentioned in a recent interview that the ensemble would be enhanced by some unusual instruments. Daron Bradford provided a descant for several numbers, including the famous solo composed by James Horner for “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Camille Barlow‘s constant and challenging rhythm on the bodhran, a traditional drum, lent a heart-pounding energy to the numbers in which she participated. Drummer Jay Lawrence, guitarist Guy Soper, and bass guitarist Jim Stout added a modern feel to the program, while “fiddler” Kristi Jenkins‘ tunes transported the audience to a different time and nation. The orchestra as a whole was a marvelous partner to the soloists and the performers clearly enjoyed the energy of each set. Conductor Pew leads the ensemble with a captivating skill while engaging the audience with his approachable sense of humor.

This romp along the River Liffey and through the Wicklow Mountains was a single event, but the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming season is full of classics as well as contemporary treasures.  – Front Row Reviewers by Kathryn Olsen