Byron Stripling Is Electrifying in Palladium debut with CSO

January 11, 2022

Carmel Symphony Orchestra “January Pops” led by Janna Hymes and featuring Byron Stripling. Photo by Tom Alvarez

How unfortunate it was that inclement weather and icy streets made for a sparse, yet enthusiastic audience on Saturday, when Carmel Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Janna Hymes, presented “January Pops.” The concert was headlined by trumpeter, vocalist, actor and conductor Byron Stripling at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts. But for those present, wearing masks and all vaccinated, in a sign of the times, the orchestra and Stripling lived up to the CSO tagline “Experience the Exceptional,” in an evening of captivating entertainment and escapism from both the weather and the still-raging pandemic.

Carmel Symphony Orchestra “January Pops” led by Janna Hymes and featuring Byron Stripling. Photo by Tom Alvarez.

Stripling, a trumpet virtuoso and equally gifted singer, displayed his trademark wit, charm and mischievous sense of humor, holding court with an audience that was smitten by this multi-talented raconteur, whose performance with the 55-member CSO marked his debut at the Palladium. Once a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, Stripling, whose distinguished credits include appearances with renowned symphonies in prestigious venues all over the world, turned in a performance that displayed not only his music genius, but also his status as a consummate showman.

The program, which was heavy on jazz and blues, was also an excellent opportunity for maestro Hymes to show off her skills as a versatile conductor, who is comfortable interpreting any music genre and with impressable flair. As far as the players, most of them freelance musicians, along with some music teachers, they shined as the professional artists they are under Hymes’s dynamic direction. Included in the group was a fine trio, recognized several times by Stripling that included Sean Parsons on piano, Jesse Wittman on bass and Jim Rupp on drums.

Opening Act 1 with “After You’re Gone,” the CSO, with the trumpeter-singer Stripling soloing during this number and throughout the entire concert, the orchestra performed many recognizable favorites including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “Down by the Riverside.” A highlight was Stripling’s poignant performance in “Do you Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”

Act 2 saw Stripling, who once appeared in the Broadway-bound musical “Satchmo,” paying tribute to his presumed idol, the great Louis Armstrong. During this portion of the concert, as well as in the first act, the charismatic Stripling showed his facility for audience participation and was truly a Pied Piper, encouraging the audience to sing along and repeat scat and nonsensical lyrics along with him. Opening with “Satchmo Scattin’ and Singin’,” the CSO and Stripling were dazzling in “Basin Street Blues.”

A highlight during the second half of the concert was “St. Louis Blues,” a tribute to the legendary 1956 concert in which Armstrong soloed with members of the New York Philharmonic in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with the composer W. C. Handy present in the audience. Stripling, as well as soloists Wai Ki Wun on clarinet and Loy Hetrick on trombone, were simply magnificent in this faithful rendition of the classic. Another piece that moved me deeply was “What a Wonderful World,” one of Armstrong’s most recognizable, if not commercial, signature songs.

When he was not joking and making tongue-in-cheek remarks, Stripling generously complimented Hymes and the musicians several times throughout the concert. At times, he also turned serious at as he acknowledged the challenges the world has undergone during the last few years. At the same time, he reminded the audience the concert and music offered were intended to be a respite from the troubled world outside the confines of the Palladium and that “art is hope.” There was no question he and the CSO, led by the bold and vital Hymes, gave a performance that demonstrated that axiom, leaving me feeling uplifted and hopeful we will all weather and eventually pass through the storms of adversity that have impacted us all. And it will be music and the arts that will light the way.

For information about upcoming CSO performances, visit


photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

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