Highmark Holiday Pops features seasonal sounds & local celebs

Nancy Goeres_Phil Kessler_Medium

Nancy Goeres, photo by Phil Kessler.

Heinz Hall

December 12, 13, 14, 20, 21

7:30 p.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Hark! And head Downtown to the Cultural District for a fresh twist on a Pittsburgh holiday favorite.

Highmark Holiday Pops is one of the most joyous ways to ring in the holidays, as the world-renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) teams up with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and an all-star cast of guest artists for five festive nights at Heinz Hall.

After dazzling PSO audiences during his Holiday Pops debut in 2013, internationally acclaimed conductor Todd Ellison returns to lead a night featuring classic carols such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “O Tannenbaum” and “I Saw Three Ships,”along with additional seasonal favorites such as “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, and Marvin Hamlisch’s “Chanukah Lights.” The song, “Bassoon It Will Be Christmas,” will showcase the talents of PSO bassoonists Nancy Goeres, Philip Pandolfi and James Rodgers.

A host of Pittsburgh cultural luminaries will add local flair to the festivities. In a new twist, “The Night Before Christmas” will feature narration by WQED-FM’s Jim Cunningham during the Pops’ first weekend, followed by WQED’s Rick Sebak taking the narrator reins during the second weekend. During all concerts, illustrator and ToonSeum founder Joe Wos will draw live as the holiday stories unfold on stage.

The production will also feature vocalists Kate Shindle and Ryan Vasquez making their PSO debut, and dancers from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. Look for jolly Santa Claus to make his annual visit to Heinz Hall, adding some new surprises to the Pops.

While there, take in all of the holiday magic at Heinz Hall, which is beautifully decked out for the holidays with a stunning 25-foot tree in the venue’s Grand Lobby.

On Friday, December 12th, the concert will be followed by a “Pops Talk” on stage with Maestro Ellison. Hailed by The New York Times as one of “Broadway’s Electric Conductors,” Ellison is one of the most accomplished and sought after music directors working today. Recently named music director and conductor of the new Encores! production of The Band Wagon at New York’s City Center, Ellison has extensive national and international conducting credits. He has conducted 20-plus albums including Grammy-winning recordings, and has accompanied stars such as Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Barry Manilow and Bea Arthur.

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