Holly Jolly POPS
Celebrate the season with the POPS!
David Charles Abell, Music Director & Principal Conductor READ BIO
Born in North Carolina, David grew up in the Mt. Airy Neighborhood of Philadelphia. At the age of fourteen, he turned his attention to conducting and went on to study with Leonard Bernstein and Nadia Boulanger. He earned degrees from Yale University and the Juilliard School after intensive study of viola, piano, and composition. He has worked with such distinguished artists as Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Idina Menzel, Heather Headley, Bryn Terfel, Matthew Morrison and Michael Feinstein. Previously, as Guest Conductor and Principal Guest Conductor of The Philly POPS, he conducted Cole Porter’s Broadway: Too Darn Hot, Lenny’s Revolution, Blockbuster Broadway, and A Philly POPS Christmas in 2013, 2014, 2015, and again for the record-setting run of A Philly POPS Christmas in 2019 and the streamed performance in 2020. David has appeared regularly on television, most notably conducting the 10th and 25th Anniversary concerts of Les Misérables. He has conducted five times at London’s BBC Proms, including a live telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. Recordings include the musicals Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre and Man of La Mancha, Something’s Gotta Give with baritone Simon Keenleyside, Forever with soprano Diana Damrau, and highlights from La Bohème and Madama Butterfly with the Royal Philharmonic.
In the UK, David recently conducted his own critical edition of Kiss Me, Kate for Opera North. He has conducted many of the premier British orchestras, including the London Symphony, City of Birmingham, Bournemouth, and Royal Philharmonic. His work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra includes a centenary concert honoring his mentor Leonard Bernstein in 2018. A much-respected artist in London’s West End, David conducted the Olivier Awards ceremony for four years and was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s personal choice to lead the world premiere of Love Never Dies at the Adelphi Theatre. David’s recent projects have included a series of Gershwin concerts at Kyiv National Theatre of Operetta in Ukraine, Carousel at the Vienna Volksoper and Sweeney Todd at the Zurich Opera House. David also conducted Barrie Kosky’s production of The Magic Flute at Opera Philadelphia, West Side Story at the Glimmerglass Festival, and Silent Night, Kevin Puts’ acclaimed opera about the World War I Christmas Truce, in Kansas City, Cincinnati and Detroit.
Mandy Gonzalez, Vocalist READ BIO
Mandy Gonzalez possesses one of the most powerful and versatile contemporary voices of our time. Mandy starred in the megahit Hamilton as Angelica Schuyler and also originated the role of Nina Rosario in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, In The Heights, for which she received a Drama Desk Award. She has starred as Elphaba in the Broadway production of Wicked, blowing the roof off of New York’s Gershwin Theatre each night as she belted out the signature song, “Defying Gravity,”
Mandy received an OBIE Award and overwhelming critical praise for her performance in the Off-Broadway production of Eli’s Comin’, directed by Diane Paulus, and based on the music and lyrics of singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Television viewers have the pleasure of seeing Mandy in the recurring role of Lucy Knox on the hit CBS drama, “Madam Secretary.” Mandy also appeared as Agent Susan Combs on the hit series “Quantico,” as well as guest appearances on “Doubt,” “White Collar,” “The Good Wife,” among others.
Equally at home on the big and small screen, she has appeared in “Across the Universe,” directed by Julie Taymor, “After,” starring opposite Pablo Schreiber, and “Man on a Ledge” with Sam Worthington. Mandy can also be heard as the voice of Mei in Disney’s “Mulan 2.”
A frequent concert soloist, Mandy has performed with symphony orchestras around the country including Cleveland Orchestra, Philly Pops, Naples Philharmonic, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Arkansas, Anchorage, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Youngstown Symphonies, among many others. Mandy made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops in February 2020 and will return to the Philly Pops for the third consecutive year in December 2020.
Mandy released her debut album, FEARLESS, with Warner Music which debuted at #13 on the iTunes charts. Her album – hailed as “a genre-defying, highly-personal, daring, and brilliant debut” (Pop Bytes) – delivers new, original songs from some of the most accomplished writers in the music industry, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Nettles, Bill Sherman, and Tom Kitt.
Jordan Donica, Vocalist READ BIO
Jordan Donica most recently starred as Jordan Chase in the CW’s Charmed. He previously guest starred in the award-winning police procedural drama Blue Bloods. Jordan originated the role of Freddy Eynsford-Hill in the 2018 Tony nominated Lincoln Center Theater production of My Fair Lady, and also starred as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the first Los Angeles and San Francisco companies of Hamilton. A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Jordan made his debut starring as the leading man, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, in the historic Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, and played Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods at Encores!.
In addition to his theater and TV work, Jordan was featured at the Washington National Opera gala at The Kennedy Center, the Pasadena Symphony, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He also starred as Sir Lancelot in Lincoln Center Theater’s gala production of Camelot, opposite Lin Manuel Miranda.
Jordan is a 2016 graduate of Otterbein University, where he graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre Cum Laude. Regional Credits include: Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar (Weathervane Playhouse), Ensemble in South Pacific (Utah Shakespeare Festival), Featured Performer in The Greenshow (USF), Captain/Hennessy in Dames at Sea (Otterbein Summer Theatre), and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park, Indianapolis Mitty Most Impressive Actor award 2013). Jordan’s Film credits include Coda: An Independent Film by Abe Purvis. Jordan also directed the 2015 Festival Play, Little Prints, a new student work by playwright Anna Mulhall, as well as a gala performance of “Exonerated” at Northwestern University for the Center on Wrongful Convictions, featuring Harry Lennix and Katrina Lenk. He was featured at the American Songbook Hall of Fame celebration at the invitation of Michael Feinstein. An ambassador for The Innocence Project, family is everything to Jordan, because without the “little village” of women who raised him, he would not be where he is today. “Every day is a gift.”
The Philly POPS Festival Chorus READ BIO
The Philly POPS Festival Chorus is a 180-voice ensemble that performs with the Philly POPS under the direction of Jeff Kern, Head of the Vocal Division for University of the Arts.
The Philly POPS Festival Chorus began performing in 2002 and performs with the POPS orchestra during the annual Christmas concert series and Broadway series. The chorus has performed with many professional artists including Faith Prince, Capathia Jenkins, Ashley Brown, Lisa Howard, Lauren Kennedy, Rachel York, Alice Ripley, Ann Hampton Callaway, and The von Trapp Family Children.
The Festival Chorus is an auditioned, volunteer organization composed of singers ranging from high school students to retired professionals.
The Philadelphia Boys Choir READ BIO
Renowned for its commanding musicianship, intelligence and interpretive abilities, the Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated Philadelphia Boys Choir has cultivated a devoted following worldwide for its highly acclaimed concerts and performances. Established in 1968, achievements include world tours, recordings with internationally renowned artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, major motion picture film scores, television appearances (Saturday Night Live, Good Morning America, and The Today Show), and praise from critics and audiences worldwide.
JEFFREY R. SMITH, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR An alumnus of the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale, Smith stepped into the position of Artistic Director in 2004 and has since led the choir on concert tours throughout North America, South America, Europe and Asia. Under his direction, the choir has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Pennsylvania Ballet, The Philly POPS, and Opera Philadelphia. Venues have included the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and Carnegie Hall in New York City. Among the political dignitaries in their audiences have been prime ministers and presidents, including Barack Obama. Smith is a 1999 summa cum laude graduate of Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Music in Composition. His original compositions and vocal/instrumental arrangements have been performed by various ensembles throughout the country, including the Toledo Symphony, York Theatre (NYC), Ocean City Pops and, The Philly POPS. As a pianist in much demand, Smith has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, The Philly POPS, and for several shows on and Off-Broadway. He is also assistant conductor for The Philly POPS.
St. Thomas Gospel Choir READ BIO
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir (STGC) is from the Historic African Episcopal Church of Philadelphia, where the Reverend Canon Martini Shaw is the Rector. The STGC currently consists of 60 spirit-filled, energetic, singers, ministers, and musicians of all ages and backgrounds. The choir’s membership represents more than 10 different area churches.
The STGC shares their music ministry at over 100 services, programs, concerts, and celebrations of all kinds every year. In 2013, STGC was named “The Best Regional Choir” in Verizon’s Music Competition, How Sweet The Sound, and the choir performed to a sold-out audience at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. In 2015, the STGC won “Traditional CD of the Year” and Walt Blocker won “Producer of the Year” at the The Rhythm of Gospel Music Awards held in Memphis. Locally and nationally, the STGC has received numerous awards and recognition, including the PHL LIVE Center Stage competition for “Best in Gospel Music” for which the choir was recognized by the Philadelphia City Council.
The STGC has performed for the installation of the last two Episcopal Church Presiding Bishops (in 2005 for the first female Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, and again in 2015 for the current and first African American Presiding Bishop, Michael B. Curry). Both were historic services of installations held at the Washington National Cathedral.
Over the years, STGC has shared their music at churches, conventions, and gatherings of all kinds. One of the many honors has been singing at the historic and prestigious Thomas A Dorsey’s National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in Washington, D.C., Orlando, and New Orleans. The STGC was also featured at the Chorus America Conference held here in Philadelphia in 2019, as well as regularly singing the National Anthem for the Philadelphia Phillies.
STGC has more than five musical recordings that showcases their various styles and love of all music from original service mass music to soul stirring gospel music. The most recent is Part 1 of their first Holiday Music EP now available.
The STGC regularly performs several genres of music including gospel, classical, Motown, pop favorites, and classics such as Stevie Wonder, U2, Gladys Knight, and Elton John, and will join the POPS in 2020 for its tribute to Aretha Franklin. STGC has appeared in the Lee Daniels movie soundtrack of The Woodsman and the English version of the international cartoon Kikoriki, as well as several plays and other musicals.
The St. Thomas Gospel Choir has performed in San Jose and Limon in Costa Rica and completed an 11-day tour in Rome, Venice, and Florence, Italy in June 2018. The STGC will be singing for the Inauguration Ceremony for the Mayor and City Council this January at The Met Philadelphia and also will be the featured Artist at the May Festival in Cincinnati in 2020 with the Cincinnati Orchestra.
Waltier Blocker is the co-minister of music with his Creative and Performing Arts classmate, Dr. Jay Fluellen, at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia. Walt attended both Westminster Choir College and the University of the Arts and studied church music, opera, and music education. Walt is a classically trained singer and is a well-known bass soloist, music director, recording producer, song writer, vocal coach, actor, and often writes music with The Philly POPS, for the Washington National Cathedral, national music conventions, and churches and choirs around the country. Waltier also serves on the national board as a consultant for musical changes and addendums for the Episcopal Church. Walt has performed and worked with directors, singers, and musical artists all over the U.S. and Europe. Walt is known for demanding excellence. His passion for music, combined with years of varied experience and knowledge and most of all love of God, brings out the best in everyone with whom he works.
A PHILLY POPS CHRISTMAS: SPECTACULAR SOUNDS OF THE SEASON
Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez returns for her fourth Christmas with the POPS, joined by Broadway sensation and small-screen heartthrob Jordan Donica!
Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell presents his usual dazzling, unique, and all-new program with over 300 performers, including The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and Santa!
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – By Felix Mendelssohn, Arr. Bennett
(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag – By Brooks, Stanley, and Taylor
We Need a Little Christmas – By Jerry Herman, Arr. Lang
All Is Well – By Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith, Arr. Huff
Winter Wonderland – By Felix Bernard, Arr. Marsh
Frosty the Snowman – By Steve Nelson, Arr. Walden
Purple Snowflakes – By Marvin Gaye, Arr. Firth
The Work of Christmas – By Dan Forrest
Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella – Traditional, Arr. Chapman
March Of the Toys – By Victor Herbert, Arr. Kincaide
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – By Walter Kent, Arr. Haynes
I Saw Three Ships – Traditional, Arr. Bennett
Deck the Halls – Traditional, Arr. Bennett
Hanukkah Festival Overture – Traditional, Arr. Richman
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays – By Robert Allen, Arr. Hayes
A Merry Christmas Sing Along – Traditional, Arr. Wendel
Breath of Heaven – By Chris Eaton, Arr. Smith
Silent Night – By Franz Xaver Gruber, Arr. Cumberland
Do You Hear What I Hear? – By Gloria Shayne, Arr. Hand
Go Tell It on the Mountain – By Joubert, McElroy, and Red, Arr. Joubert
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town – By J. Fred Coots, Arr. Walton
All I Want for Christmas Is You – By Mariah Carey, Arr. Firth