December 4, 2021

By W. Gerald Cochran, M.D.

Lenoir, NC – About 20 centuries ago, a bright star shone in the East, denoting the first Christmas. Tonight, the bright star was in the North. It was the Western Piedmont Symphony under the baton of Matthew Troy, Music Director, at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir, NC, presenting its Christmas Pops concert: “A Down Home Christmas.”

The orchestra, as festive as I have heard it, presented such favorites as Leroy Anderson’s Christmas Festival; an arrangement of music from the movies by Bob Krogstad, which included such films as “Home Alone”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among others; and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, made famous by Mel Torme.

Joining the orchestra to sing O, Holy Night was Soprano Julia Woodward, who has sung with Opera Carolina and other groups and is a star on the rise. Her performance was tender, lush, and simply thrilling. In addition, she also led the audience in a Christmas Sing-along, which was beautifully performed.

A Christmas celebration would not be complete without Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and this concert was no exception. Joining the orchestra were members of the Hickory Ballet and Performing Arts to dance “The March,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Mother Ginger,” and “Trepak.” This group aspires to enrich the community with the training, education, and art of Classical Ballet and its related art forms. The performers were, of course, young and with varied levels of accomplishment, but presented a lovely rendition of the ballet.

Also performed by members of the Hickory Ballet was Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, this time accompanied by some very accomplished tap dancers, including soloists Charlton Seaver and Sara Wimmer.

And finally, what is Christmas without Santa Claus? Santa left the North Pole to pay a visit to the Western Piedmont Symphony and its audience and was beautifully serenaded by soprano Julia Woodward the Brad Ross’s version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Closing the concert was a wonderful performance of Jim Beckel’s Gospel Christmas, based primarily on “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and including other gospel songs.

What a spectacular way to usher in the holiday season.

Keep an eye out for upcoming performances of the “Bold, New, and Inspiring” Western Piedmont Symphony with Matthew Troy, Music Director. The Western Piedmont Symphony is a grant recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council and is a funded affiliate of the United Arts Council of Catawba County. Business offices are located on the SALT Block at 243 Third Ave. NE

For more information about the Western Piedmont Symphony, call 828-324-8603, visit, or email [email protected].