A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season, runs December 4–18 at Kimmel Cultural Campus

Courtesy of the Philly POPS

Santa Claus is coming to town for Philly’s holiday tradition, A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season, running December 4–18 at the Kimmel Cultural Campus.

Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell returns for his sixth Christmas with the POPS, along with Broadway stars Scarlett Strallen and Hugh Panaro, guest pianist Charlie Albright, organist Peter Richard Conte, three choirs and Santa Claus, for a night of joy, wonder and memories with over 300 performers onstage.

“We can’t wait to ring in the Christmas season in person with A Philly POPS Christmas,” said Frank Giordano, President of The Philly POPS. “After this past year and a half, we could all use some Christmas joy and our favorite holiday traditions. Every Christmas with David Charles Abell has been special, but this will certainly be one to remember.”

Broadway and West End star Scarlett Strallen makes her debut with the POPS for this performance. Scarlett is best known for her role as Mary Poppins and played the title role in both the Broadway and West End productions.

Philadelphia’s own Broadway star Hugh Panaro celebrates his second Christmas with the POPS. Hugh is best known for his performance as the Phantom of the Opera and has played the role over 2,000 times. Hugh graduated from Temple University and attended La Salle College High School.

Following his debut in the 2020 streamed performance of A Philly POPS Christmas, piano virtuoso Charlie Albright will dazzle with his interpretations of Christmas favorites, along with a nod to Liberace.

Continuing the POPS’ tradition, this performance will also feature The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, renowned organist Peter Richard Conte and a singing Santa Claus.

“The holidays are my favorite time of the year with the POPS,” said Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell. “My first performance with the POPS was A Philly POPS Christmas—back in 2013. Every year, I plan a show that lives up to the name ‘Spectacular Sounds of the Season.’ This show kicks off the holiday season for so many in Philadelphia—and Scarlett Strallen, Hugh Panaro, Charlie Albright, our three choirs and Peter Richard Conte on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ will fill you with the holiday spirit.”

As part of another POPS holiday tradition, the winning school choirs of the B101 choir competition will also perform during the Wednesday, December 8 and Wednesday, December 15 shows.

More details and tickets available at phillypops.org/christmas. Tickets: $35–186

Starting off the Christmas season, the POPS continues its Salute Series by presenting Comcast NBCUniversal 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 recognition for the exemplary commitments of select service members. Tickets are not for sale to the public for this concert.

Performance schedule:

  • Friday, December 3, 8 p.m. (Christmas Salute, tickets by invitation only)
  • Saturday, December 4, 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 8, 8 p.m.
  • Friday, December 10, 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 11, 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 15, 8 p.m.
  • Friday, December 17, 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 18, 3 p.m.

Performance repertoire:

  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Run, Little Raindrop, Run
  • Feed the Birds
  • Walking in the Air
  • Silver Bells
  • Touch the Peace
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • A Merry Christmas Sing Along
  • See, Amid the Winter’s Snow
  • Christmas à la Valse
  • Hannukkah, O Hannukkah!
  • The Twelve Days After Christmas
  • Joy to the World
  • Peace and Favor Rest on Us
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  • Liberace Holiday Medley
  • O Holy Night

About Scarlett Strallen
Scarlett Strallen has starred in productions on Broadway, London’s West End, and is a frequent soloist on the concert stage. She is currently starring on Broadway as Gwendolyn in Travesties and has appeared in the title role of Mary Poppins, a role she also played in the West End and as Sibella Hallward in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

Additional theater credits include Mabel in Pirates of Penzance at Barrington Stage Company, Lady Macduff in Macbeth at the Armory in New York, Cunegonde in Candide at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Cassie in A Chorus Line at The London Palladium, Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain at Chichester Festival Theatre and The Palace Theatre London (Olivier Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical), Amalia in She Loves Me at the Chocolate Factory, and Clara in Passion at Donmar Warehouse. Prior to this she played Marian in The Music Man at Chichester Festival Theatre and at the Royal Shakespeare Company playing Anne Page in Merry Wives of Windsor. Her performance of Josephine at Regents Park Open Air Theatre in HMS Pinafore won her an Olivier nomination. Other productions at Regents Park include Cymbeline and Twelfth Night, Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), and original casts of Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward), The Witches of Eastwick (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and Peggy Sue Got Married (Shaftesbury). In 2014, Scarlett received the ‘Whatsonstage’ awards for best actress in a musical for A Chorus Line at the London Palladium and Candide at the Menier.

A frequent soloist with orchestras around the world, Scarlett made her German debut at the Philharmonie in Berlin with the John Wilson Orchestra in “A Celebration of the MGM Film Musicals”. Recent concerts include “Disney on Broadway” at the Royal Albert Hall, “I Love Musicals” arena tour of Sweden with Peter Joback, “Cole Porter in Hollywood” UK tour with the John Wilson Orchestra, a broadcast on Sky television from the Royal Albert Hall in London and “Bernstein Stage and Screen” at the BBC Proms with the John Wilson Orchestra which was broadcast on BBC television.

Scarlett has recorded with Simon Keenleyside “Something’s Gotta Give” for Chandos conducted by David Charles Abell. Film and television credits include: Kevin Spacey’s movie Beyond The Sea, the title role in the BBC production of Mary Poppins celebrating HM Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday.

About Hugh Panaro
Hugh Panaro is perhaps best known for having played the coveted role of the Phantom in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera over 2,000 times, including the 25th Anniversary production. In fact, Hugh is one of the few actors to be cast by Harold Prince as both The Phantom and Raoul in the show’s Broadway production and is currently starring as the titular role in the immersive Off-Broadway production of Sweeney Todd.

Hugh made his Broadway debut in the original production of Les Misérables as Marius, the role he originated in the First National Company. He also created the roles of Buddy in the original Side Show (Sony cast recording); Julian Craster in Jule Styne’s last musical, The Red Shoes; and the title role in the American premiere of Cameron Mackintosh’s Martin Guerre. Hugh was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance in the title role of Elton John’s Lestat, based on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. He made his West End debut in the original London company of Harold Prince’s Show Boat as Gaylord Ravenal, the role he previously played in the Broadway and Toronto productions. At the prestigious 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, Hugh played George Seurat in Sam Buntrock’s Tony Award-winning production of Sunday in the Park with George, and Robert in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Hugh’s performance as Jean Valjean in the Walnut Street Theater’s production of Les Misérables earned him the prestigious Barrymore Award, for which he was again nominated after a turn as Fagin in Oliver! In 2012, Hugh was honored with the Edwin Forrest Award for his long-term contribution to the theater.

An active concert artist, Panaro has performed with numerous symphony orchestras including Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, and Utah Symphonies, and the London Sinfonietta, among many others. He had the privilege of performing in the world premiere of Penderecki’s Te Deumat Carnegie Hall and was a guest soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch. His recordings include Jerome Kern Treasury, the original cast recording of Side ShowTap Your Troubles Away (Herman), The Centennial (Weil), and Life On The Wicked Stage (Kern). His first solo CD, recorded with Sony/BMG, was released in the summer of 2007. In addition, he toured throughout Europe with the legendary Barbra Streisand.

A native of Philadelphia, Panaro graduated from Temple University and was awarded the Boyer College of Music Certificate of Honor.

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.

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).

Albright regularly collaborates with artists from all genres, including vocalist/conductor Bobby McFerrin and violinist Joshua Bell. He has collaborated five times with revered cellist Yo-Yo Ma: at the honorary degree ceremony at Harvard University for Senator Ted Kennedy; at a 10th anniversary remembrance of 9/11; at the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison; at the Aspen Institute’s Citizen Artistry conference in New York; and with the Silk Road Project. 

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.

About Music Director and Principal Conductor David Charles Abell
David Charles Abell is the 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 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.

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