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New BPO pops conductor planning bombastic Holiday Pops

“Mr. Christmas” is what they are calling John Morris Russell in Cincinnati. He is the music director of the Cincinnati Pops, and the newly named principal pops conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Fresh from his Christmas pops extravaganza in Cincinnati, Russell is presiding over the BPO Holiday Pops on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It looks like quite the grab bag. Music from Victor Herbert’s “Babes in Toyland,” and Hollywood music man Carmen Dragon’s silver screen arrangement of “O Tannenbaum.”

Local talent will be on proud display. The BPO’s new concertmaster, Dennis Kim, will be the soloist in “A Winter Miracle,” drawn from Vivaldi. Tenor George Brown is singing the stirring American carol “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

A special highlight promises to be the appearance of Nia Drummond, a soprano from Brooklyn who is a voice performance major at SUNY Fredonia. Drummond sang in a master class for Renee Fleming, who called her extraordinary. The young soprano is the soloist in the tour de force “O Holy Night.”

Let the rest of it be a surprise. This will be the high-energy Russell’s first official concert with the BPO, and the smart money is on him making a splash. There are four performances: at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $39.50-$89.50. Call 885-5000 or visit

– Mary Kunz Goldman