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BPO Holiday Pops, Dec. 16-18

Call him Mr. Christmas. Lots of people do. We speak, of course, of the man in red himself -- John Morris Russell, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's principal pops conductor.

The word is out that Russell collects Christmas music, that he has tons of it, mostly on vinyl. This passion shows in his work. In 2015, his first Holiday Pops concert with our orchestra charmed the house. The show was imaginative and Russell presided over it joyously.

This year, Mr. Christmas has got a brand new bag. Well, it's not entirely brand new. A Holiday Pops concert, like any Christmas concert, has to include a healthy helping of tradition. But it sparkles.

On the traditional side, the music includes the classic Robert Shaw arrangements of carols, sung by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, and a well-known arrangement of the medieval French carol "Ding Dong Merrily On High." And the Westminster Presbyterian Church Bell Choir is playing "Gloria Hodie" and "Carol of the Bells." Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," so thank goodness that's there.

On the newer side, the suite from "The Polar Express" could be considered a contemporary classic. The chorus is singing "Somewhere in My Memory" from "Home Alone," and "Walking in the Air" from "The Snowman." Jazz master Jeff Tyzik has contributed a Hanukkah song. And a "Little Drummer Boy" involves the African American Cultural Center.

There's more, too. It's fun just to leave your program closed on your lap and let the musicians surprise you.

Four performances are scheduled. The first, a Coffee concert, is at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 16. The other three performances are 8 p.m. Dec. 16, 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Tickets are $35-$85. Call 885-5000.


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