A PHILLY POPS CHRISTMAS: SPECTACULAR SOUNDS OF THE SEASON AND I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: A SALUTE TO THE MILITARY AND FIRST RESPONDERS WILL BE RECORDED ON DECEMBER 4 AT THE GRAND OPERA HOUSE IN WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
Philadelphia, PA (November 24, 2020) — The Philly POPS brings Christmas home this year with a special holiday gift: the POPS’ two annual Christmas performances, A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season and Comcast NBCUniversal I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders, will be provided free, through a number of innovative distribution methods all during the month of December.
Both performances feature Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell leading the POPS with Hamilton star and POPS Christmas favorite Mandy Gonzalez and dazzling performer and improviser Charlie Albright on piano, as well as Artistic Director for Jazz Terell Stafford on trumpet.
The Seventh Annual Comcast NBCUniversal I’ll Be Home For Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders, the free Salute Series favorite designed to honor those who choose a life of service, expands its reach with a planned transmission by the American Forces Network. The AFN’s transmission will reach approximately 500,000 servicemembers domestically and 500,000 internationally at both military bases and seafaring vessels. This Philadelphia tradition will be made available privately to members of the military, veteran communities, and the Police and Fire Departments. This year’s Christmas Salute performance is dedicated to frontline healthcare workers who have helped protect the citizens of Philadelphia through the events of the past year.
“The POPS felt it was so very important to carry on our two Christmas traditions,” said Frank Giordano, President and CEO, The Philly POPS. “We wanted the first responders to have their usual free annual holiday program dedicated to honoring the commitments they make each and every year. That’s Christmas Salute. And this year, we hope to make it available through the American Forces Network to our overseas service community as well.”
As with POPS on Independence on July 3, A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season will be available as a digital stream from the POPS’ website from December 18, 2020 to January 1, 2021. Continuing the tradition, A Philly POPS Christmas will include virtual choir performances from The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, and The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. And no performance would be complete without a visit from Santa Claus!
“A Philly POPS Christmas is a Philly tradition to so many families—they return year after year, after year,” said Frank Giordano. “This free stream of our Christmas performance is our thanks to them for their ongoing support … and our way of wishing them the happiest of holiday seasons.”
The Seventh Annual Comcast NBCUniversal I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders will be made available privately to Philadelphia police, firefighters, military, veterans, and first responders as well as globally through the AFN. Details on this performance are available at phillypops.org/xmassalute.
A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season will be available as a digital stream from December 18, 2020 to January 1, 2021 at phillypops.org. More details about A Philly POPS Christmas are available at phillypops.org/christmas.
This program has been made possible by generous support from Comcast NBCUniversal, IBX, Bank of America, and The Presser Foundation. The Philly POPS partners for the Salute Series include America 250, Visit Philadelphia, Welcome America, The City of Philadelphia, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
About Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell
David Charles Abell is the newly appointed Music Director and Principal Conductor of The Philly POPS.
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, Josh Groban, 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.
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.
About Mandy Gonzalez
Called by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical sensation Hamilton, “one of the greatest singers on earth,” Mandy Gonzalez has thrilled audiences on Broadway, lit up the screen and started a social movement.
Mandy currently stars as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton and on the CBS hit, Madam Secretary. Onstage, the dynamic range of Mandy’s voice sets a new standard—one moment, she can be soft and sultry, the next moment, she can shake the rafters. Mandy is a Warner Music artist and recently released her debut album, FEARLESS, which debuted at #13 on the iTunes pop charts.
Mandy is known for originating the role of Nina Rosario in the Tony award-winning show, In the Heights. She also starred as Elphaba in the Broadway production of Wicked—blowing the roof off of the Gershwin Theatre every night.
Mandy is the proud founder of #FearlessSquad—a social media movement for inclusiveness and belonging. #FearlessSquad connects millions of people around the world, encourages them to be their best selves and helps them empower each other.
Mandy is also an author—she recently published a widely-cited article in the Harvard Business Review on how to overcome one’s fear of public speaking and be more confident in one’s communication and leadership.
Mandy appeared with The Philly POPS for 2017’s July 4 “Party on The Parkway,” where her version of “This Land is Your Land” shook the crowd. Mandy also appeared in A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season 2018 and 2019.
About Charlie Albright
Hailed as “among the most gifted musicians of his generation” with a “dazzling natural keyboard affinity” who “made quite an impression” by the Washington Post, American pianist/composer/improviser Charlie Albright has been praised for his “jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality” by The New York Times, and his “extravagance that had showmanship but never felt cheap” with his “ease and smoothness that refuses to airbrush the music, but animates it from within” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and Gilmore Young Artist Award, Albright won the Ruhr Klavier Festival Young Artist Award presented by Marc-André Hamelin (Germany) and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. In addition to performing, Albright is sought after as a speaker, masterclass instructor, teacher, and competition judge. His debut commercial recording, Vivace, has sold thousands of copies worldwide and the first of a 3-part Schubert Series of live, all-Schubert recordings was released in 2017. Charlie Albright breaks the “classical” rules of music by connecting with audiences like no other. Through his music, speaking, and unique improvisations that bring music to life, he crosses all genres…and makes it fun.
He is a frequently returning guest artist with such orchestras as the BBC Concert Orchestra (14-concert tour with Maestro Keith Lockhart, chosen as one of the “Best of the BBC 2015”); the Alabama, Baltimore, Boston Pops, Buffalo, California, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Edmonton (Canada), Des Moines, Fort Smith, Houston, Kymi Sinfonietta (Finland), Lansing, Mobile, National Center for the Performing Arts (Beijing, China), Omaha, Phoenix, Seattle, San Francisco, Victoria (Canada), and West Michigan Symphony Orchestras. He has performed worldwide, including at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.); Symphony Hall (Boston); the Salle Cortot (Paris, France); the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (Miami); the Kumho Art Hall (Seoul, South Korea); the NCPA (Beijing); and Alice Tully Hall (Mostly Mozart Festival, New York).
Born in Centralia, Washington, Albright began piano lessons at the age of 3. He studied with Nancy Adsit and earned an Associate of Science degree at Centralia College while still in high school. He was the first classical pianist in the Harvard College/New England Conservatory 5-Year AB/MM Joint Program, completing a Bachelor’s Degree as an Economics major and Pre-Med student at Harvard, and a Master of Music Degree in Piano Performance at NEC, having studied with Wha-Kyung Byun. He graduated with the prestigious Artist Diploma (A.D.) from The Juilliard School, having studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky. Albright is an official Steinway Artist. For the latest information, please visit CharlieAlbright.com and Facebook.com/CharlieAlbrightPianist.
About Artistic Director for Jazz Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, combining a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well-defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads.
Since the mid-1990s, Stafford has performed with groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, Kenny Barron Quintet, Frank Wess Quintet, Jimmy Heath Quintet and Big Band, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band. Stafford, with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, performed on Diana Krall’s Grammy-nominated From this Moment On (2006). John Clayton invited Stafford to perform with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Stafford is a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, which was awarded a Grammy in 2009 for Best Large Ensemble, “Live at the Village Vanguard.”
Stafford can be heard on over 130 albums. His latest recording This Side of Strayhorn has been hailed as “the first must-have album of 2011” and “genius.” Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. Stafford is renowned in the jazz world as an educator, performer and leader and has received countless award nominations and accolades.
Stafford was born in Miami and raised in Chicago, Illinois and Silver Spring, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Maryland in 1988 and a Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 1993.
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 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.
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.
About The Philly POPS Festival Chorus
The Philly POPS Festival Chorus is a 170-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. Auditions are held in mid-June.
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.
As the official POPS orchestra of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia’s partner in civic celebration, The Philly POPS serves a consistently growing audience of over 250,000 annually. Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell 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.
In addition to Subscription Series performances at The Kimmel Center, The Philly POPS presents innovative programming with contemporary artists at the Met Philadelphia in The Philly POPS at the Met Philadelphia series. Other ensembles that make up The Philly POPS are: The Philly POPS BIG Band, which plays a rock and rhythm and blues repertoire, and The Philly POPS Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, under the direction of Artistic Director for Jazz, Terell Stafford.
Outside the concert hall, free Salute Series performances – including Memorial Salute, July 3 POPS on Independence, July 4 POPS at the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony and POPS on the Parkway, Veterans Day activities 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 Outside brings POPS music to local communities. The Philly POPS performs as a founding resident company of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, as the Principal Orchestra of the Met Philadelphia, and at venues throughout the mid-Atlantic region.