Press Release • October 21, 2022

Celebrate the holiday season at the Kimmel Cultural Campus with The Philly POPS as they kick off this holiday season with all the classics conducted by Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell

Philadelphia, PA (October 21, 2022) – The Philly POPS is spreading the holiday spirit anew in their annual Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season in nine shows beginning on December 3rd. Popular Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell returns for his seventh Christmas season with the POPS, bringing his unique and brilliant style to the stage with guest artists Hamilton and In the Heights star Mandy Gonzalez and Broadway sensation and small-screen heartthrob Jordan Donica.

The audience will enjoy performances with 300 artists on stage, including The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and Singing Santa!

The POPS kicks off the holiday season for sold out all family crowds by performing signature Christmas songs including Winter Wonderland, All I want for Christmas is You, Silent Night, Frosty the Snowman, and so much more.

“The Holidays are always spectacular at the Philly POPS! I look forward to conducting traditional carols like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Deck the Halls” sung by hundreds of voices with organ and full orchestra. Glorious!” Said Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell, ”I also love the modern pieces we’ll be doing which explore the meaning of Christmas in our day and age – beautiful songs such as “Breath of Heaven,” “Purple Snowflakes” and “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” I am so looking forward to another dazzling Philly POPS Christmas!”

Mandy Gonzalez returns to the POPS for her fourth Christmas. Gonzalez is known not only for her longstanding role as Angelica Schyler in Broadway’s Hamilton, but also for her powerful portrayal of Nina Rosario in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, In The Heights.  In that role, which she originated Off-Broadway at 37 Arts, and for which she received a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble, she first made her name.

Jordan Donica is making his Philly POPS Christmas debut this year. Donica originated the role of Freddy Eynsford-Hill in the Tony-nominated Lincoln Center Theater production of My Fair Lady, and also starred asMarquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Los Angeles and San Francisco companies of Hamilton. He has also starred in Charmed and Blue Bloods on the small screen.

The Philly POPS will kick off the Christmas series with their Ninth Annual Christmas Salute  I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders on Dec 2. The benefit exclusively hosts 2,000 members of the military, police and fire departments and their families for an invite-only ChristmasSpectacular. The Salute Series is an invite-only event as it includes recognition for the exemplary commitments of all members of the service community. For additional details and tickets or call the Kimmel Center Box office at 215.893.1999. Tickets are $35-152.

Performance repertoire:

  1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  2. (Everybody’s Waitin for) The Man with the Bag
  3. We Need a Little Christmas
  4. All is Well
  5. Winter Wonderland
  6. Frosty the Snowman
  7. The Work of Christmas
  8. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
  9. March of the Toys
  10. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  11. I saw Three Ships
  12. Deck the Halls
  13. Hanukkah Festival Overture
  14. There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
  15. A Merry Christmas Sing Along
  16. Breath of Heaven
  17. Silent Night Do You Hear What I Hear?
  18. Go Tell it on the Mountain
  19. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  20. My Grown Up Christmas List
  21. All I Want For Christmas Is You


About Mandy Gonzalez

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.

About Jordan Donica

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 Tony-nominated Lincoln Center Theater production of My Fair Lady, and also starred as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the 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. He also 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 starred as Lancelot in Lincoln Center Theater’s gala production of Camelot opposite Lin Manuel Miranda. Jordan was also featured at the American Songbook Hall of Fame celebration at the invitation of Michael Feinstein.

Jordan directed a gala performance of the play “Exonerated” at Northwestern University for the Center on Wrongful Convictions, featuring Harry Lennix and Katrina Lenk.

Jordan is a 2016 graduate of Otterbein University, where he graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre Cum Laude. 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.”

About Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell 

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 HotLenny’s RevolutionBlockbuster 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 SaigonMartin Guerre and Man of La ManchaSomething’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 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 Waltier Blocker

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.

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 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 450,000 annually. Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell and the 65-piece Philly POPS orchestra keeps 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 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 3,000 Philadelphia School District students; and 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