Grinches, beware. You’ll have to summon the mother of all bad attitudes to even try to resist the charms of this year’s “Magic of Christmas” production by the Portland Symphony Orchestra and friends.

Conductor Robert Moody and his collaborators have structured the 34th annual “Magic” with a bit of theater. But the emphasis, more so than in some years, is first and foremost on the music. Saturday afternoon’s performance proved to be a thoughtfully prepared celebration of the season.

All the bells, chimes and even some organ chords were in play from the start with a spirited rendition of “A Christmas Festival Overture,” Leroy Anderson’s arrangement of a medley of Christmas songs. Many of the melodic elements introduced in this work would find fuller expression in the program to follow.

Many more than a hundred musicians and chorus members filled the wide Merrill stage in a way seldom seen as guest vocalist Jessica Cates entered a small living room set in one corner for a take of “We Need a Little Christmas.” This was followed at the opposite corner by Jonathan Blalock, dressed as a soldier, and singing the wistful classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” as he sat on his bunk.

The pair finished the scenario a little later as the soldier came home for a duet, with chorus backing, on “White Christmas.” Some in the packed Merrill Auditorium may have been reminded of personal experiences, recent or long ago.

The Orchestra and Magic of Christmas Chorus, led by Richard Nickerson, got to demonstrate some formal finesse with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from “The Nutcracker.” It made one think of the many performers who have graced the same stage dancing to this beautiful music.

Assistant Conductor Norman Huynh took over after intermission for a few pieces, including a very spirited take on “Sleigh Ride.” A version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” included a swinging appearance by the old white-bearded gentleman (played by Newton Curtis) and some fun lighting effects.

A sing-along segment got the bolder audience members involved before Moody returned for what was, arguably, the highlight of the afternoon: a medley called “A Gospel Christmas” featuring Cates and Blalock. Cates, particularly, excelled on “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” revealing remarkable soulfulness alongside obvious technical skills, and the two singers, orchestra and chorus all worked together impressively to make this piece truly special.

Heading out into the cold after the show that was just short of two hours, many in the crowd were surely still under the holiday spell of the PSO and friends.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.