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The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra closed out the 2019 and the holiday season with the Holiday Pops conducted by Grammy Award nominee John Morris Russell.

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When the nominations for the 62nd annual Grammy Awards were revealed, BPO Pops conductor John Morris Russell was among those who are up for an award. He has been nominated for Best Classical Compendium for conducting “American Originals 1918”. This is Russell’s first Grammy nomination and he hopes to join BPO Musical Director Joann Falletta with his own gramophone statue.

Liz Callaway made a return visit to Buffalo to perform with the BPO and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus.

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Russell and the BPO opened the program with the “Christmas Scherzo” – a mashup of several holiday songs – and “Dance and Sing this Happy Day” before The Chorus joined in for a performance of “Joy to the World”.

Lizz Callaway is known for her giving voice…and song…to animated film characters. One of her biggest roles was that of being the singing voice for Meg Ryan’s title role in the film “Anastasia”. Callaway performed the songs “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past” from the film. She also sang a medley of “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow”.

Buffalo is known as the home of the NFL Buffalo Bills and the NHL Buffalo Sabers, but it is known for something else – cold winters and lots of SNOW! For a little fun the BPO played “The Skaters Waltz” while videos of people having fun…mostly…in the snow. There was also a video of a guy trying to get his car unburied from the snow. When the scene first came on the screen, everyone in the house laughed. As the video went on, it kept looking back to the van and his progress in getting his car free from the snow. And when he finally did, everyone clapped.

The Chorus sang “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby”.

In a multi cultural performance, The Chorus performed “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Mis zeh Hidlik” (Behold the Light) before the BPO Finished out the first half of the program with “Farandole” from “L’Anlesienne, Suite No. 2”.

After the intermission, the second half of the program opened with a new arrangement of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”.

Liz Callaway returned to the stage for a performance of “God Bless My Family” a song that was written by her sister Ann (who has also performed with the BPO).

After telling a story about being the stand in for Barbra Streisand while Streisand was preparing for a tour, Callaway sang the Streisand arrangement of “Jingle Bells” from Streisand’s first Christmas album, one of her favourite Christmas songs “Grown Up Christmas”, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

Members of the African American Cultural Center Drumming Ensemble joined the BPO and The Chorus for a performance of “Little Drummer Boy”.

After a Holly Jolly Sing-a-Long, the program ended with Liz Callaway returning to the stage to join the BPO and The Chorus in a performance of “Night of Silence” and “Silent Night”.

John Morris Russell and the BPO ended the holiday season by making “a joyful noise” of music and laughter.