Press Release • November 27, 2018

Philadelphia, PA (November 7, 2018) — The Philly POPS will present its fifth annual Christmas concert tradition: Comcast NBCUniversal I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders December 7, 2018 at 8 p.m. at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. At this annual benefit concert, the POPS hosts 2,000 members of the military, veterans, police and fire departments, and their families. The concert is presented in partnership with the USO, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments.

The concert is a special patriotic presentation of Philadelphia’s favorite holiday show: A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season, which has ten shows throughout the month of December.

Governor Tom Wolf will serve as Honorary Chair of this event.

“I’m proud to say our Christmas Salute concert has become a beloved tradition for those who serve,” said Frank Giordano, President and CEO of The Philly POPS. “With all that they do throughout the year, it is truly an honor to be able to give back to our service members with a night of Christmas merriment. Likewise, it is a privilege to be able to recognize the service and sacrifice of our first responders and their families.”

The show starts with a patriotic program, including the Star-Spangled Banner sung by Sergeant First Class (Retired) Anthony G. Yates, U.S. Army, with The Philadelphia Military Academy Color Guard presenting the colors. Brigadier General (Retired) Carol Eggert, now Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs for Comcast NBCUniversal will give remarks.

The concert features POPS Music Director-Designate Todd Ellison leading an all-new lineup of holiday music, featuring the 65-piece POPS orchestra, Hamilton’s 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 – plus a performance by a USO Troupe and a visit from Santa.

The POPS ushers in holiday cheer before and after each concert with lobby entertainment, including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Victorian Carolers, and the Atlantic City Fire Department’s Sand Pipers bagpipe troupe.

During this year’s show, the POPS will recognize two service members for their exceptional commitment to the community and America as a whole:

First, the POPS will honor the memory and contributions of Captain Matthew LeTourneau of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Captain LeTourneau was an 11-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department, who died in the line of duty when part of a rowhouse collapsed during a fire that he was fighting on Jan. 6, 2018. Just two months prior, Capt. LeTourneau attended 2017’s Christmas Salute concert with his family. The POPS will recognize his family along with his service and sacrifice, along with remarks from Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel.

Secondly, the POPS will honor New Jersey Assemblyman and Navy SEAL, Ryan Peters. Assemblyman Peters will be the first person to receive the POPS’ inaugural Salute Service Award to honor his commitment to both the State of New Jersey and to America.

The Philly POPS Salute Series recognizes those who dedicate themselves to a life of service and commitment by celebrating their service on holidays of American tradition. Since the inaugural Christmas Salute concert in 2014, the Salute Series has grown to include free community concerts on Memorial Day, July 3, July 4, and Veterans Day. Comcast NBCUniversal is the presenting sponsor of the Philly POPS Salute Series.

How to get tickets

Tickets for this concert are not available to the public. All tickets have been distributed to military service members, veterans, and members of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments. The general public can purchase tickets to the ten A Philly POPS Christmas concerts that run December 1-22:

Schedule of events:
6:30 p.m.: Lobby entertainment featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus and Victorian Carolers

7:15 p.m.: Concert attendees in uniform, with families, arrive

8 p.m.: Program begins, Verizon Hall
– On-stage: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel, ranking members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
– Remarks by: Philly POPS President and CEO Frank Giordano; Brigadier General (Retired) Carol Eggert
– Star Spangled Banner performed by U.S. Army veteran Anthony G. Yates
– The Philadelphia Military Academy, a POPS in Schools participant, presents the Nation’s Colors
– Musical program begins

The event is made possible by generous donors and sponsors, including Comcast NBCUniversal, Archer Attorneys At Law, EisnerAmper LLP, Parx Casino, Templeton Foundation, and many more.

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 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 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 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, under the direction of Waltier Blocker. 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