The Florida Orchestra's Holiday Pops concerts this week are the perfect stocking stuffer for one and all. The program features treats that taste of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and general holiday cheer.
Conductor Stuart Malina will join the orchestra, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and vocalist Hilary Kole in a fellowship of songs ranging from classics to clever parodies.
"We'll focus more on non-liturgical music of the holiday season," Malina said. "We'll get carols in there, but also a lot more pop tunes popularized in this country in the last 50 years or so. Plus, we'll have the old favorites. There's something for everybody."
Expect "Jingle Bells," "Winter Wonderland" and "Joy to the World," as well as "Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Hanukkah in Santa Monica." American singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer wrote the latter, but Malina has tweaked this pithy tune with lines such as "I'm spending Kwanzaa with Tony Danza."
"The song takes you through the Jewish holidays. I've added a second verse to make it ecumenical. It's less middle American and more Boca Raton," Malina said.
Malina also will bring his singing voice to the program.
"In this holiday concert, many things will include my dulcet tones. I see my singing like the silver balls on a cake that you don't eat but that look pretty."
If Malina's vocals are purely decorative, Kole's are the cake and frosting combined. She's shared her jazzy-blues style with symphonies across the country, plus headlined shows at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Cotton Club, the Montreal Jazz Festival and more. She considers singing with an orchestral backdrop as the "world's best karaoke."
"The lushness and fullness of the sound goes right through you. When you sing and become part of it, it's almost like an out-of-body experience. The orchestra catapults you to a higher sphere. When you get to become one voice with the orchestra, plus the audience is so involved, you feel the love and warmth," said Kole.
Kole has worked with Malina many times before, but guest conductor Brett Karlin is relatively new to the scene. Karlin is this year's winner of the Master Chorale's annual composition competition. The prize includes premiering his choral composition at three Florida Orchestra series concerts. Karlin serves as the Master Chorale's assistant conductor, the director of music at Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa and the director of choral studies at Hillsborough Community College.
"The competition adds to what's out there for holiday music," Malina said. "I have to say this holiday concert is a really fun one. It has it all — wonderful choral music, some comedy, wonderful big band arrangements of holiday tunes. It's a fun, comfortable concert for everybody."
FLORIDA ORCHESTRA HOLIDAY POPS
When and Where: 8 p.m. Friday at the Straz Center,
Ferguson Hall, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg; 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater
Tickets: $15 to $45; (727) 892-3337 or 1-800-662-7286 and www.floridaorchestra.org