The Philly POPS Brings Holiday Cheer to Over 2,000 Servicemembers and Special Recognition for Dr. Ala Stanford of BDC

-Courtesy of The Philly POPS

The Philly POPS kicks off the holiday season with the eighth annual Comcast NBCUniversal I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders, December 3, 2021 at 8 p.m. at the Kimmel Cultural Campus.

At this annual benefit concert, the POPS hosts 2,000 members of the military, veterans, police and fire departments, frontline healthcare workers and families for a special opening night of A Philly POPS Christmas. The concert is presented in partnership with 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 premier holiday show: A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season, which has seven shows throughout the month of December.

“Our Christmas Salute concert is a beloved tradition for those who serve, and we’re so happy to welcome our servicemembers and families back to the hall,” said Frank Giordano, President of The Philly POPS. “The Salute Series is an integral part of our mission, and it is an honor to be able to give back to our servicemembers with a night of Christmas joy and excitement. In light of the past year and half, we are proud to honor Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, for her service and commitment to the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia area.”

The show starts with a patriotic program, including the Star-Spangled Banner. The Philadelphia Military Academy Color Guard will present the colors. Brigadier General (Retired) Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs for Comcast NBCUniversal will give remarks.

This year’s Salute Service Award honoree is Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Seeing the need for accessible COVID-related healthcare for Black Philadelphians, Dr. Stanford founded the consortium to provide mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination operations. By bringing their operations to the community, the consortium was able to administer more than 25,000 vaccine doses by mid-March, with Black Philadelphians making up 75 percent of their clients. While administering COVID-related care, the BDCC also saw a need for general healthcare access for communities of color and have expanded to open a primary care clinic to help combat health inequity.

Following the presentation of Salute Service Award, the program continues with A Philly POPS Christmas. 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.

The Philly POPS Salute Series recognizes those who dedicate themselves to a life of service by celebrating their commitment 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.

Tickets for this concert are not available to the public. All tickets have been distributed to military servicemembers, frontline healthcare workers, veterans and members of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments. The general public can purchase tickets to the seven A Philly POPS Christmas concerts that run December 4-18.

Schedule of events:
6:30 p.m.: Lobby entertainment featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus
7:15 p.m.: Uniformed concert attendees and families arrive
8:00 p.m.: Program begins, Verizon Hall

On-stage: Representatives from Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments, ranking members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Remarks by: Philly POPS President Frank Giordano and Brigadier General (Retired) Carol Eggert

Presentation of the Salute Service Award

The Philadelphia Military Academy, a POPS in Schools participant, presents the Nation’s Colors

Star Spangled Banner

Musical program begins

The event is made possible by generous donors and sponsors, including Comcast NBCUniversal, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Wawa Welcome America, The City of Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross, The Ethel Sargeant Clark Smith Memorial Fund, The Presser Foundation, Visit Philadelphia and Aqua.

About Dr. Ala Stanford MD, FACS, FAAP
Dr. Ala Stanford, a practicing physician for over 23 years, is board certified by the American Board of Surgery in both pediatric and adult general surgery and a health care advocate. Her research in basic science, clinical research and public health have been published in peer reviewed medical journals. Dr. Stanford also serves as a medical correspondent. Dr. Stanford was the former Director of the Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In March 2020, she founded The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC). The consortium was formed in response to the disproportionate number of African Americans being diagnosed and dying from coronavirus in Philadelphia, PA and the lack of swift intervention to mitigate disease spread. The mission of the consortium is to educate, provide advocacy and barrier-free coronavirus testing in an effort to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease. To date, BDCC has administered over 25,000 COVID-19 tests and over 53,000 vaccinations. Recognizing the need to provide a continuum of care for Philadelphia residents, Dr. Stanford set her sights on creating a center for health equity and in November 2021, the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity (ASHE) will open its doors at 2001 W. Lehigh Avenue (20th St. and Dr. Ala Stanford Way), Philadelphia, PA.  ASHE will provide culturally competent care and access to quality healthcare services including, but not limited to: pediatrics, phlebotomy, behavioral health, obstetrics/gynecology, men’s health and health and wellness related programming.

  • Dr. Stanford teaches medical students and residents in training. She has worked and trained at   the best children’s and adult hospitals in the nation. University of Pittsburgh, SUNY @ Brooklyn, The Pennsylvania State University, Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • As a pediatric surgeon she cares for and/or operates on newborns and children through 18 years and those with congenital conditions through adulthood.
  • She owns and directs R.E.A.L. Concierge Medicine, Co. since 2013. R.E.A.L. is a personalized health care company providing unique and complex health services and advocacy to individuals and corporations throughout the USA and internationally.
  • She founded her own pediatric surgery private practice, Stanford Pediatric Surgery, LLC in 2017.
  • She is founder of the 501c3 non-profit organization It Takes Philly, Inc. that focuses on professional and personal development of youth in urban and suburban areas with limited resources.
  • She serves as a mentor for students of all ages and is a frequent invited speaker at elementary schools, major academic institutions and national organizations and societies.
  • She leads medical mission trips to Haiti and heads the medical triage ministry at her local church.
  • She is a wife and mother of three sons, a 13-year old and 11-year old twins.
  • When she completed her adult General Surgery training at the University of Pittsburgh she was the first African American woman to complete her training there.
  • When she completed her Pediatric Surgery fellowship she was one of two African American women pediatric surgeons in North America.

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 ChorusThe 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.

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