Guests include voice of ‘Little Mermaid’ Jodi Benson, Mendelssohn Choir, Broadway star Gary Mauer, Pittsburgh’s own Ricky Manning, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Santa

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch returns to Heinz Hall this month to lead the orchestra in the hugely popular Highmark Holiday Pops concerts.

This year’s concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15; 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16; 2:30 & 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17; and 2:30 & 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18. Tickets, ranging from $20 – $100, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412.392.4900, or visiting the PSO online at

Joining Hamlisch and the PSO on stage will be Jodi Benson, the voice of Barbie in Toy Story 3 and Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and vocalist Gary Mauer, from Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera, as well as the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, and Pittsburgh-area’s own Ricky Manning, who will be singing Danny Boy.

The program will include the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, selections from The Nutcracker, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, as well as holiday favorites, such as Do You Hear What I Hear? O Holy Night, Chanukah Lights, and Silent Night.

As part of the holiday tradition, people are urged to join for the “Twelve Days of Merriment.”  The PSO will ask fans through Dec. 16 to share their favorite holiday memories, photos, libations and more for chances to win tickets to the Highmark Holiday Pops concerts.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra would like to recognize and thank Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield for its 2011 title sponsorship of Highmark Holiday Pops. Bobby Rahal Automotive Group is the official automotive group of the PSO. Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the PSO.

Marvin Hamlisch’s life in music is notable for its great versatility and substance. As composer, Hamlisch has won virtually every major award: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globe awards; his groundbreaking show, A Chorus Line, received the Pulitzer Prize.  He is the composer of more than 40 motion picture scores including his Oscar-winning score and song for The Way We Were and his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for The Sting, for which he received his third Oscar. His prolific output of scores for films include original compositions and musical adaptations for Sophie’s Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer, Three Men and a Baby, Ice Castles, Take the Money and Run, Bananas and Save the Tiger.

Jodi Benson was inducted as a Disney Legend after serving the company for 25 years. She has received worldwide recognition and critical acclaim as the beloved voice of Ariel in the Academy Award-winning Disney film, The Little Mermaid, as well as the bubbly voice of Barbie in Disney’s Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. Her other film projects include The Little Mermaid III, The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea as Ariel, Lady and The Tramp II as Lady, 101 Dalmatians II as Anita, DreamWorks’s animated video Joseph: King of Dreams as his wife Asenath, and in Balto II and III as Jenna for Universal Studios. She received Tony Award and Helen Hayes Award nominations for Best Actress in a Musical for creating the starring role of Polly in the Tony Award-winning Gershwin musical Crazy For You. Other Broadway credits include the Howard Ashman/Marvin Hamlisch musical Smile, Cy Coleman’s Welcome To The Club, and Kenny Ortega’s Marilyn: An American Fable.

Gary Mauer was seen on Broadway as the Phantom in the Hal Prince production of The Phantom of the Opera, a role he previously performed on the National Tour. Previously, he starred in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, performing the romantic leading role of Raoul. Mauer performed in the Broadway production of Les Misérables in the role of Enjolras, the revolutionary leader, a role he also performed with the National Tour in the US and Singapore. He also was a featured soloist in the world tour of “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” with Michael Crawford, taking him to Japan, Australia, England, Scotland, and culminating back in the US, where he performed for two weeks at Radio City Music Hall.

Ricky Manning is a detective with the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office with 13 years of service. His first inspiration was music and although his path has taken him to a career of civil service, he continues to pursue music, when he is not pursing fugitives, daily. He was a member of the Carnegie Mellon University Pipes and Drums for 12 years, and studied under the late, world renowned Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies. He performs with singer/songwriter Mark Pipas & The Sleaze Band and local Irish artist Sean McClorey, performing at numerous venues in the greater Pittsburgh area.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, a chorus of 120 which includes a 20-voice professional core, is renowned for its versatility, singing oratorio, opera, Broadway, folk and symphonic repertoire. Founded in 1908, the MCP holds the distinction of being Pittsburgh’s oldest continuously performing arts organization. The Choir, in its 104th season and sixth under the direction of Betsy Burleigh, is known for its mastery of the great choral classics. In 2009, the chorus sang a critically acclaimed performance of Rachmaninoff’s a cappella masterwork, the Vespers at St. Paul Cathedral. Most recently, they sang the Bach’s majestic Mass in B Minor to a sold out audience at East Liberty Presbyterian Church. In 2008, the Choir performed the epic oratorio Elijah under the baton of its Director Emeritus and Grammy Award-winning Robert Page.

While the founding of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School pre-dates that of the company, the two were merged under the direction of Patrick Franz, PBT’s Artistic Director from 1977-1982. The Pre-Professional Division of the school experienced a surge of growth and development under the direction of Patricia Wilde, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director from 1982-1998. Today, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School (PBT School) is recognized as one of the nation’s finest schools for dance education and training. It offers a thorough and well-rounded dance education for more than 800 students of all ages, levels, and degrees of interest, taught by faculty and guest teachers of international acclaim.

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