'Jerry's Girls' places bright talents in a drab, ill-contructed package; Christman at Pops

Few better ways to savor the commercialism bedecking the season than by spending a couple of hours with the Boston Pops. The orchestra's six Christmas concerts sell out fast and help to mop up some of the red ink spilled by its stodgier sister group, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The concerts also prove that people are willing to pay top prices for the privilege of singing ''Jingle Bells'' in Symphony Hall. It's been that way for years.

Still, one might have thought that some of the unspecified changes much-trumpeted in the wake of director John Williams's threatened resignation last summer might have surfaced in these concerts. If any did, they eluded this writer at last Friday's matinee.

True, tardy concertgoers are only let in between numbers now. But a contemplative moment during a selection from Humperdinck's ''Hansel and Gretel'' still doesn't deter waitresses from stomping across the hardwood auditorium floor with a pitcherful of that pink tooth-chatteringly sweet Pops punch.

Oh yes, there was music also. The concert got off on the wrong foot with a contribution from movie-music composer Williams called ''Gloria,'' an overwrought fanfare for chorus and orchestra that might have been more at home in a Cecil B. De Mille epic. It ended when young Vicki McClure - who stepped out of the chorus and into the limelight at the Olympics last summer with her rendition of ''Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand'' - crooned the old Diana Ross tune.

Santa Claus was there, presenting Pops conducting understudy Harry Ellis Dickson with a sequined, Michael Jacksonesque glove. So were the secular sing-alongs like ''White Christmas,'' ''Let it Snow,'' and ''Winter Wonderland.'' Christmas carols of a religious nature were left to the superb Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In what is apparently becoming the Pops's own Christmas tradition, the audience heard an arrangement of the delightful carols by the late Alfred Burt.

Of course, beneath the sheen of banality that is Christmas Pops lies the Boston Symphony itself - one of the greatest instruments of musical expression ever to grace the planet. Those few moments when the Pops's true character shines through made the proceedings bearable.

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