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POP MUSIC REVIEW : ‘Young Messiah’ Concert an Often Bland Celebration

With a cast that included Grammy-winners Steven Curtis Chapman and CeCe Winans, a 24-piece orchestra and a 200-voice choir, the three-hour “Young Messiah” concert at the Pond of Anaheim on Saturday was reminiscent of those old holiday TV specials--except that this show was at times remarkably somber and humorless.

In this celebration of the religious roots of Christmas--via familiar carols and a misguided “update” of Handel’s epic “Messiah” oratorio--the performances of popular carols were moderately effective while the attempts at new holiday standards fell flat.

The new music often amounted to bland pop or the simple adding of a funky beat or tenor sax to some string passages, which is about as meaningful as that old “Hooked on Classics” disco-classical medley.

Some rousing moments did emerge from Winans and Larnelle Harris, but Chapman, whose warm, folksy tenor has brought him to the brink of potential crossover to secular audiences, was strangely immobile in his tux, as if the solemnity of the “Young Messiah” material left him with nary a kick or shuffle to liven up the proceedings.

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The goal of the “The Young Messiah,” its creators have said, is to return to the days when church music was at the top of the pops. But it’s unlikely that if Handel were alive today, his 1990s “Messiah” would quite measure up to the so-called “Young Messiah’s” special blandness.


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