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ASO’s Yuletide gift

Something new for the holidays.

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ASO'S ITKIN: A Christmas gift.
  • ASO'S ITKIN: A Christmas gift.
David Itkin, conductor and music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, has always taken a special pride in his annual holiday show. That’s why it took several years before he decided to make it entirely new, and this weekend unveils the ASO’s Pops, Live Yuletide Spectacular at Robinson Center Music Hall Some familiar faces from the ASO’s past holiday shows are part of this new offering, but Itkin mostly has given his seasonal showcase a decided twist: new staging; new choreography; a new collection of seasonal music, including Christmas carols; stirring gospel favorites, and energetic klezmer music. Vocalist Lawrence Hamilton, a veteran of Broadway, will appear again along with directing his Philander Smith Collegiate Choir. Local comedienne Sharon Douglas is on the bill, as well as vocalists Kristi Tingle, Lonnie Parsons and Matt Newman, the Shuffles and Ballet II Dancers, the Central Arkansas Children’s Choir, the Immanuel Baptist Church Chancel Bells, the ASO Festival Singers and the Meshugga Klezmer Band. Some of the musical highlights include Duke Ellington’s take on the “Peanut Brittle Brigade” from “The Nutcracker Suite,” the pops-jazz renditions of “My Favorite Things” and “Sleigh Ride,” Itkin’s medley arrangement of Handel’s “Messiah,” Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song,” and Itkin’s arrangement of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 17-18, and 2 p.m. Saturday. Ticket prices range from $16 to $54. While the Yuletide Spectacular is geared toward the family, the ASO will focus on the little ones on Sunday, Dec. 19, with Jingle Bell Little Rock, a one-hour version of the holiday show and part of the Alltel Crayon Concert Family Series. The program also includes a “Deck the Halls” children’s fair and phone calls to Santa’s workshop. Sunday’s show starts with the children’s fair at 2 p.m. and the concert at 3 p.m. Tickets are $6 for kids and $17 for adults. Call 666-1761 or visit www. ArkansasSymphony.org for tickets.

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