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Vanessa Williams returns to Buffalo this holiday season. (Photo courtesy of the BPO)
Vanessa Williams returns to Buffalo this holiday season. (Photo courtesy of the BPO)

Vanessa Williams, 'Elf' with live orchestra, join Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's festive holiday lineup


Thu, Nov 11th 2021 09:25 pm

Audience favorites ‘JoAnn’s Classical Christmas’ and John Morris Russell's ‘Jazzy Holiday Pops’ return to live performances at Kleinhans

While Santa is busy making his list and checking it twice, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has put together a holiday season filled with sugar and spice and everything nice, with seasonal offerings for every musical taste. From a star performance with Vanessa Williams, to the family-friendly film classic “Elf” with live orchestra, to perennial favorites “Classical Christmas” with maestro JoAnn Falletta and Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell’s “Jazzy Holiday Pops,” Kleinhans will offer musical memory-making for the entire family this holiday season.

Nobody spreads Christmas cheer quite like Buddy the Elf! On Friday, Dec. 3 (7:30 p.m.), CineConcerts and Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment bring the timeless holiday classic, “Elf in Concert,” to Kleinhans Music Hall – part of the BPO film series sponsored by KeyBank. This world-premiere performance will feature the BPO performing every note from John Debney’s heartwarming score, which he conducts while the entire film is projected on a 40-foot HD screen. Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell, the film is considered by many to be one of the best holiday movies of all time. In “Elf,” Buddy is accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. Student tickets start at $20.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7 (7:30 p.m.), Williams joins the BPO for a holiday spectacular. The television, film and Broadway star will lend her voice to holiday favorites, including “Mary’s Little Boy Child / O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and the title track from her Christmas album “Starbright,” plus popular songs from her distinguished career, including “Dreamin,’ ” “Save the Best for Last,” and “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas,” which won the Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Ron Spigelman conducts. 

On Friday, Dec. 10 (10:30 a.m.) and Saturday, Dec. 11 (7:30 p.m.), Falletta’s handpicked selections in “JoAnn’s Classical Christmas,” part of the M&T Bank Classics series, will transcend audiences. Relive Christmastime in the late 19th century through such works as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Polonaise” from Christmas Eve, and selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and Glazunov’s “The Seasons.” The program also includes other endearing treasures, such as “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from “Handel’s Messiah” and Arthur Luck’s “O Holy Night,” featuring Buffalo soprano Sirgourney Cook.

John Morris Russell


The holiday season would not be complete without JMR’s “Jazzy Holiday Pops” led by “Mr. Christmas” himself, Russell. There are four chances to join in the musical merriment – two popular “Coffee Concerts” presented by Elderwood on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 16-17 (10:30 a.m.); an evening performance on Saturday, Dec. 18 (7:30 p.m.); and a matinee performance Sunday, Dec. 19 (2:30 p.m.). Experience holiday magic at Kleinhans as the BPO performs swinging and soulful renditions of popular favorites, including “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Donny Hathaway’s classic, “This Christmas,” with vocals by Buffalo natives Curtis Lovell and George Brown. Selections from Duke Ellington’s jazzy take on “The Nutcracker” to Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” will feature the Darlene Ceglia Dance Project. Buffalo’s Celtic band, Normal Street Entrance, with BPO violinist Amy Licata and associate principal bass Brett Shurtliffe, and a traditional carol sing-along round out a program that is as eclectic as it is fun and festive.

For the littlest listeners, this year's “Jingle Bell Jam,” sponsored by Wegmans as part of the “BPO Kids” series, will be held virtually, available as a free broadcast with advance email registration. The performance may be streamed on-demand anytime, anywhere for 30 days following its premiere on Sunday, Dec. 12. The whimsical and light-hearted concert features vocalist Karen Saxon and the Royal Academy of Dance, with selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” the mystical “Carol of the Bells,” a new spin on the “12 Days of Christmas,” and a cheerful assortment of carols for an at-home sing-along. Patrons can register for their virtual ticket link at bpo.org/jingle-bell-jam.

In addition, two collaborations return to the BPO's holiday schedule. On Saturday, Nov. 27 (7 p.m.) and Sunday, Nov. 28 (1 p.m.), experience Neglia Ballet’s magical production of “The Nutcracker” at Shea’s with the BPO performing Tchaikovsky’s score. Tickets can be purchased at sheas.org or by calling 716-847-0850.

On Sunday, Nov. 28 (7:30 p.m.), at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, and Sunday, Dec. 5 (2:30 p.m.), at St. Mary’s of Swormville, the BPO joins the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus for “Handel’s Messiah,” with the perennial favorite that brings audiences to their feet, the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Tickets can be purchased at bpchorus.org.

Single tickets to all holiday performances are on sale now. Groups of 10 or more receive additional savings of 15% or more. To purchase tickets, subscribe or get gift cards or BPO recordings, call 716-885-5000, visit bpo.org, or stop by the Kleinhans Box Office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

A press release stated, “The safety of our musicians, staff, volunteers and community is the No. 1 priority of the BPO. We will continue to follow all local, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines. In order to further protect the health, safety and enjoyment of all, the BPO is implementing a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and a masking policy for all staff, volunteers, performers and audiences at Kleinhans Music Hall. A negative COVID-19 test result will no longer be accepted for those over age 12. Children under age 12 are required to provide a negative PCR test result within 72 hours or negative antigen test result within six hours of the performance start time.”

Details can be found at bpo.org/safety-protocols.

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