Press Release • November 1, 2018

Philadelphia, PA (November 1, 2018) — Philly’s favorite holiday tradition is back! KeyBank presents: A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season returns to the Kimmel Center stage with ten performances from December 1–22. 

Music Director-Designate and former Radio City Christmas Spectacular conductor Todd Ellison makes his POPS Christmas debut by conducting an all-new, festive musical program, featuring the 65-piece POPS orchestra, Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez, organist Peter Richard Conte, The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, the Philadelphia Boys Choir and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. 

The program features timeless pop and classic Christmas tunes, such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas,” as well as exciting new tunes. During the show, Jeff Kern, Philly POPS choral director and head of vocal studies at University of the Arts, will present his original choral arrangement of “Sleigh Ride,” written for 300 voices. 

Mandy Gonzalez, currently taking a star turn in Hamilton on Broadway will lead the POPS’ popular Christmas sing-along and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” As a nod to her Latina heritage, she will also perform “Feliz Navidad” and “Remember Me” from Disney’s Coco. Gonzalez will appear with the POPS during 6abc’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where she will sing “Remember Me” to a live and televised audience of over one million people. Learn more about Mandy’s special appearance at the 6abc Thanksgiving Day Parade at 6abc.com/parade.

This year’s pre-concert entertainment will be from the More.fm choir competition (12/5 & 12/12), Calli Graver (12/8), Clearview Choir (12/14) and HOME: The Andrew Jackson Rock Band (12/15). In anticipation of the concert, Mandy will be visiting local schools that are impacted by our POPS in Schools program.

This year, the POPS has designated the December 5 show a “Sensory Friendly” performance. Sensory Friendly performances create a welcoming environment for individuals and families who have sensory sensitivities, cognitive processing differences or anyone who may benefit from a relaxed performance environment. All are welcome to these performances. 

During the Sensory Friendly performance: 
• ​Lighting will be mid-level.
• Guests are invited to move, get up to walk around and be who they are. 
• Guests are welcome to vocalize and enjoy the performance as they wish in a shush-free environment. 
• A cool down space outside of Verizon Hall (two locations) will be provided with bean bag chairs where guests may take a break from sensory stimuli. 
• Noise canceling headphones will be available through Art-Reach, and guests may also bring their own headphones. Amplified sound will be kept mid-level.
• Concert hall doors will remain open, so guests can come and go as they please. 
• Fidget toys and sensory stress toys will be available. Guests are also welcome to bring additional manipulatives, cushions, and extra support or comfort objects to the concert. 

“A Philly POPS Christmas has become a tradition for Philadelphia families,” said Frank Giordano, President and CEO of The Philly POPS. “We kick off the holiday season for over 20,000 people annually with our one-of-a-kind Philly POPS holiday cheer. And with the addition of our Sensory Friendly show, we look forward to welcoming everyone to this wonderful holiday sensation.”

The event is made possible by Presenting Sponsor KeyBank.

Tickets: $35-160

Alongside these Christmas concerts, the POPS continues its Salute Series by presenting Comcast NBCUniversal’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders—the annual benefit concert where the POPS hosts 2,000 members of the military, police and fire departments and their families for an invite-only Christmas Spectacular. The evening also includes recognitions for the exemplary commitments of select service members. Tickets are not for sale to the public for that concert.

Performance schedule:
• Saturday, December 1 at 3 p.m.
• Sunday, December 2 at 3 p.m.
• Wednesday, December 5 at 8 p.m. (Sensory Friendly show)
• Friday, December 7 at 8 p.m. (Christmas Salute Show; invite only)
• Saturday, December 8 at 3 p.m.
• Wednesday, December 12 at 8 p.m.
• Friday, December 14 at 3 p.m.
• Saturday, December 15 at 3 p.m.
• Sunday, December 16 at 3 p.m.
• Friday, December 21 at 3 p.m.
• Saturday, December 22 at 3 p.m.

About Mandy Gonzalez

Called by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical sensation Hamilton, “one of the greatest singers on earth,” Mandy Gonzalez possesses one of the most powerful and versatile contemporary voices of our time. Currently starring as Angelica Schuyler in the Broadway juggernaut Hamilton, she is perhaps best known for her emotional portrayal of Nina Rosario in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, In The Heights, a role she originally created Off-Broadway at 37 Arts, and for which she received a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble. 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,” and for which she was honored with a Broadway.com Award for Best Replacement. Other Broadway roles include Princess Amneris in the Elton John and Tim Rice musical, Aida, and Lennon, where she portrayed multiple roles including Beatles icon John Lennon. Mandy made her Broadway debut in Jim Steinman’s Dance of the Vampires, starring opposite Michael Crawford.

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 had the pleasure of seeing Mandy recur 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 be heard as the voice of Mei in Disney’s “Mulan 2,” on recordings of the original Broadway cast album of “In the Heights,” “Kerrigan-Lowdermilk Live,” and “The Man Who Would Be King.”

A frequent concert soloist, she has performed with symphony orchestras including Cleveland Orchestra, The Philly Pops, Naples Philharmonic, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Arkansas, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Youngstown Symphonies She has also started working on her first solo album with plans for a 2017 release. Mandy can currently be seen as the recurring character Lucy Knox on the hit CBS drama, “Madam Secretary.” 

About Todd Ellison

Todd Ellison most recently was the Music Director for the Tony-nominated An American In Paris on Broadway, now playing in the West End, has a Roman Holiday premiere headed for Broadway, and has The Black and White Ball in prep for Broadway. 
His Broadway credits include Michel Legrand’s Amour, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Best Musical Tony Award), La Cage aux Folles (Best Musical Revival Tony Award), 42nd Street (Best Revival Tony Award), Elton John’s Lestat, Annie, The Wild Party, On the Town, Once Upon a Mattress (starring Sarah Jessica Parker), How To Succeed (starring Matthew Broderick), She Loves Me, Taller than a Dwarf, and A Class Act. He was the music director of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the famed Radio City Music Hall for several seasons. 

Todd led the Philly POPS for its first Memorial Day concert at Longwood Gardens in 2015. He’ll return to conduct POPS on Independence on July 3 and A Philly POPS Christmas in December 2018.

About The Philadelphia Boys Choir
Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale develops a varied repertoire every year. This repertoire is the basis for all performances of the Choir in a season, including the annual tour. It is a combination of classical, traditional, popular, and patriotic songs, focusing on American composers.

Established in the 1960s, Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale has toured the world, recorded with internationally renowned orchestras and soloists such as Luciano Pavarotti, appeared on national and international television, and received praise from critics and audiences worldwide.

About the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir (STGC) is part of the Historic African Episcopal Church of Philadelphia. The STGC currently consists of 60 spirit-filled, energetic, singers, ministers and musicians of all ages and backgrounds. The choir’s membership represents over 10 different area churches. The STGC shares their music ministry at over 100 services, programs, concerts, and celebrations of all kinds every year.

Among many awards, the STGC has also performed for the installation of the last two Episcopal Church Presiding Bishops—first 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 historic services were held at the Washington National Cathedral.

About Peter Richard Conte
Possessing nearly-unparalleled technical facility, a brilliant ear for tonal color and innovative programming style, Peter Richard Conte is one the most sought-after and revered “orchestral” organists of this era. 

Appointed in 1989 as the fourth Wanamaker Grand Court Organist and presiding over the world’s largest fully-functioning musical instrument, Mr. Conte is highly regarded as a masterful and enthralling performer, arranger of jaw-dropping organ transcriptions and creatively astute silent film accompanist. Mr. Conte also presents duo concerts with Flugelhorn player and organist Andrew Ennis.

About The Philly POPS
The Philly POPS, the largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States, delights audiences with the inspired performance of American popular music. The POPS celebrates this distinctive musical heritage through an expanding repertoire of innovative concert performances and a robust set of educational and engagement initiatives.

Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary Season, the POPS, the official POPS orchestra of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia’s partner in civic celebration, serves a consistently growing audience of over 200,000 annually. Music Director Michael Krajewski and the 65-piece Philly POPS orchestra keep listeners tapping their toes to an impressive repertoire of songs from American traditional music up through to today’s chart-toppers. The Philly POPS BIG Band, an 18-20 piece ensemble performing a rock and rhythm and blues repertoire, premiered in 2017 to enthusiastic response at the July 4 Welcome America Concert on the Parkway. 

Outside the concert hall, free Salute Series performances – including Memorial Salute, July 3 POPS on Independence, July 4 POPS on the Parkway and the I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders concert – celebrate the American tradition of service around important national holidays. POPS in Schools enhances music education for Philadelphia School District students; POPS Outside brings POPS music to local communities. The Philly POPS performs as a founding resident company of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and at venues throughout the mid-Atlantic region.