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Polar shift for BPO Holiday Pops

Everybody's waiting for the man with the bag -- and, finally, he's here. John Morris Russell, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra principal pops conductor, is known as Mr. Christmas, for reasons that rapidly become evident at his annual Holiday Pops. Morris, who also is the music director for the Cincinnati Pops, collects Christmas music. He loves to fill his programs with curiosities and gems he has come to know from his vast holdings.

This year's Holiday Pops begins with an arrangement of "The First Noel" by Rob Mounsey, who toured playing piano with Idina Menzel and has worked with everyone from Elton John and Steely Dan to Jackie Evancho. Next up is a romantic 1930s-style arrangement of "O Tannenbaum" by Capitol Records' Carmen Dragon. From there, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus will continue on a journey that includes holiday music from all over the map. The concert features appearances by local jazz singer Katy Miner, Girlchoir and Normal Street Entrance.

In a new twist, the concert's centerpiece is "The Polar Express," narrated by Mike Randall. The Philharmonic will play the orchestral score, and accompanying the production will be illustrations from the book.

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Holiday Pops: 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Dec. 16 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Tickets are $36-$86. Visit bpo.org or call 885-5000.

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