Celebrate the Holiday Season with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra celebrates the holiday season at Highmark Holiday Pops with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and an all-star cast of guest artists on Dec. 12, 13, 14, 15, 20 and 21. Audiences also can enjoy Heinz Hall decorated beautifully for the holidays, complete with a 25-foot tree in the Grand Lobby!

Renowned conductor Todd Ellison will lead this festive series of concerts featuring classic carols, such as “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Hall” and “Silent Night,” along with other seasonal favorites such as the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, Marvin Hamlisch’s “Chanukah Lights” and “A ‘Spike Jones’ Jingle Bells” played by the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass. Principal trumpet George Vosburgh will solo on the well-known “The Christmas Song.” Also on stage will be vocalists Christopher Sanders, Nikki Renée Daniels, Vanessa Campagna, James Fedor Jr. and Ricky Manning. And there might just be a special visit from Santa to bring more delightful surprises!

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday; 8 p.m. on Friday; 2:30 and 8 p.m. on Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $21 to $99, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or by visiting pittsburghsymphony.org.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra would like to recognize and thank Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield for its 2013 title sponsorship of Highmark Holiday Pops.

Fairmont Pittsburgh is the official hotel of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Photo by Ronnie Nelson
Photo by Ronnie Nelson

Hailed by The New York Times as one of “Broadway’s electric conductors,” Todd Ellison is one of the most accomplished and sought-after music directors working today. Currently music director and conductor of the new Broadway production of Annie, his credits include “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “42nd Street,” Elton John’s “Lestat,” “Once Upon a Mattress” (starring Sarah Jessica Parker), “How To Succeed” (starring Matthew Broderick) and “She Loves Me. He was the music director of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the famed Radio City Music Hall for several seasons.” Internationally, he has conducted at the Vienna Konzerthaus with Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley, The Dublin Film Orchestra and Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Mexico City. He has conducted more than 20 albums, including the Grammy Award-winning cast albums of his shows.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, a chorus of 120 that 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. The MCP is a Steinway Artist, the only chorus holding that designation.

Sanders Christopher_webChristopher Sanders is an award-winning actor/singer and has performed in venues around the world. Throughout his career, he has had the pleasure of working with George Hearn, Roddy McDowell, Carol Lawrence, John Raitt, Debbie Boone and Rosemary Clooney. Theatrical credits include “Kiss Me Kate,” “Les Miserables,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “South Pacific,” “Man of La Mancha,” “My Fair Lady” and “Into the Woods.” His concert work includes engagements with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony, Pasadena Pops and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber at the National Theatre and Concert Hall Taiwan. Sanders tours the country as the baritone for the legendary 1940s singing group, The Pied Pipers. Earlier this year, Sanders released his first solo CD, “Curtain Call.”

Daniels Nikki Renee_webNikki Renée Daniels made her Broadway debut as Nehebka in Aida. Since then, the talented actress has worked on Broadway in “Nine,” “The Look of Love,” “Lestat,” “Les Miserables,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Promises, Promises” and “Anything Goes.” She last appeared on Broadway as Clara in the 2012 Tony Award-winning revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, singing the iconic song “Summertime.”


Campagna, Vanessa_webAt 10 years old, Vanessa Campagna was chosen out of 24,000 youngsters to appear on CBS’ “Star Search.” Since then, she has shared the stage with some of the greatest artists in the music industry, such as Reba, Sugarland, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Loretta Lynn, Keith Urban and more. It was in Nashville, Tennessee, where Campagna recorded her first two albums, “Vanessa Campagna” and “Can You Hear Me Now.” For her third CD, “For You,” Campagna wrote all but one of the songs and co-produced the album. Just in time for the 2013 holiday season, Campagna released her second full length Christmas album entitled Simply Christmas. Campagna’s versatility enabled her to land the soulful theme song for the television show, “Bar Karma,” which aired on Current TV. In early 2012, she collaborated with producer/songwriter Rick Witkowski and Keegan Dewitt on the music and lyrics for a short film project named “Inocente,” which told a story about a young artist’s determination to never surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings. This documentary, which aired on MTV and was shown at film festivals across the country, was awarded a 2013 Oscar for best Documentary Short. 

Ricky_Manning_webRicky Manning, dubbed by the late Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch as “The Singing Detective,” returns for a third performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Highmark Holiday Pops.  Manning, a greater Pittsburgh native, is a 15-year veteran of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and was promoted to sergeant in April 2013.  After a short audition with Hamlisch, he was originally brought to the Heinz Hall stage for the 2011 Highmark Holiday Pops performances, singing “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Manning also had the pleasure of several return performances as a guest vocalist with Pittsburgh’s own River City Brass, under the direction of Master Conductor James Gourlay.   Manning performed in a River City Brass special, Celtic Connections, and he performed at the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Kentucky, singing “500 Miles,” “Country Roads,” “I Walk the Line” and “Rocky Top.”  He is a graduate of Central Catholic High School and holds a B.S. in law enforcement from Point Park University.  Manning 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.  Manning performs a wide variety of music from rock, folk, country and Celtic styles.  He is the lead singer in local band “Donnie Irish” and can be seen performing around town with local bass legend Justin Brown and drummer Bill Gendron.  They recently performed as the opening band at the 2013 Pittsburgh Irish Festival.  

James Fedor Jr_webJames Fedor Jr. is a student at Mon Yough Catholic School. He enjoys singing, and plays guitar and piano. He is a member of The Children’s Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh and performed in “Hansel and Gretel” with the Pittsburgh Opera.




The Pittsburgh Symphony Brass was organized by George Vosburgh in 1994 with an emphasis on featuring some of the world’s finest orchestral brass musicians playing in chamber ensemble. The result has been a unique blend of virtuosity with brilliant sonority usually associate with orchestral brass. The ensemble, all of whom are member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, endeavors to stretch the limitation of performance and explore a wide range of musical expressions rarely achieved in brass music. The six members include George Vosburgh and Neal Berntsen on trumpet, William Caballero on horn, Peter Sullivan on trombone, Murray Crewe on bass trombone and Craig Knox on tuba.

Photo by Rob Davidson
Photo by Rob Davidson

George Vosburgh, celebrated soloist and lecturer, is internationally acclaimed for his virtuosity on the trumpet in recordings, concerts and recitals, as well as many guest artist performances in such locales as the Bonn Festival at Rolandsek, Germany, the Ravinia Festival, Chicago, and the Curs Internacional de Musica in Valencia, Spain. In 1992, he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as principal trumpet. In 1994, Vosburgh organized the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass, a unique brass ensemble featuring some of the world’s finest orchestral brass musicians in chamber ensemble. Since 1998, the Brass has enjoyed a flurry of recording and performance activity, releasing five CDs, including Bach’s “The Art of Fugue” on the Four Winds label.

Editors Please Note:

Thursday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2:30 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2:30 and 8 p.m.

Heinz Hall
TODD ELLISON, conductor
JAMES FEDOR JR., vocalist

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing — Traditional (arr. Harris)
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

We Need a Little Christmas — Jerry Herman (arr. Wendell)
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music — Music by Richard Rodgers
Ms. Daniels

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen — Traditional (arr. Harris)

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers — Leon Jessel

In the Bleak Midwinter — Gustav Holst
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

The Christmas Song — Mel Tormé
Mr. Vosburgh

All I Want for Christmas Is You — Carey & Afanasieff
Ms. Daniels & Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Danny Boy — Traditional
Mr. Manning

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas — Meredith Willson
Mr. Sanders

Christmas Magic — Mark Lawrence
Mr. Sanders

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah — George Frideric Handel
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Les Patineurs (Skaters’ Waltz), Opus 183 — Emil Waldteufel

Ding Dong! Merrily On High — Traditional (arr. Rutter)
Pittsburgh Symphony Brass

A “Spike Jones” Jingle Bells — James Pierpont
Pittsburgh Symphony Brass

Chanukah Lights — Marvin Hamlisch
Ms. Campagna & Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Christmas Morning — Todd Ellison
Ms. Daniels & Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Try to Remember from The Fantasticks — Bock/Harnick
Mr. Sanders and Mr. Fedor

Traditional Christmas Sing-Along

  • Joy to the World
  • Silent Night
  • O Come All Ye Faithful

Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

Deck the Halls — Traditional (arr. Dragon)
Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

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