FOR ALL ten seasons since its inception, the Savannah Philharmonic has been staging a holiday concert to help spread joy and holiday spirit throughout the city. This year’s Holiday Pops performance - taking place at the Johnny Mercer Theater on Dec. 7 and 8 - is no exception.
By all accounts, however, it’s bigger and better than ever. The show is set to feature holiday classics performed by the Philharmonic and their acclaimed Chorus, and also include visual elements courtesy of Stage Front Productions.
One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s concert is the Family Matinee, taking place on Sat., Dec. 8 at 3 P.M. It’s an abbreviated version of the show meant to cater to children and families who might appreciate a shorter performance.
“We’re creating a Santa’s Workshop in the lobby,” executive director Terri O’Neil tells Connect. “So, from 2 until 2:45 P.M., in advance of the 3 P.M. matinee, we’re going to have Santa and Mrs. Claus! We’ll have a little performance by the Savannah Ballet Theater, and it’s just going to be an awesome pre-concert activity for the family.”
Another notable factor that makes this year’s concert so special is the acquisition of nearly 1,000 tickets, which were purchased by Philharmonic contributors Dick and Judy Eckburg and members of the board of directors.
Those tickets will be given away to active military members and their families, as well as several other not-for-profits for families with challenges.
“Of those nearly 1,000 tickets, 550 of them will be going to military families who will be guests of Dick and Judy Eckburg at the Matinee,” O’Neil says.
The classical concert on Friday and Saturday night is set to be one for the books, with the Philharmonic Chorus being joined by guest vocalist Erica Gabriel - 2018 gold medalist at the American Traditions Vocal Competition.
“She’ll be performing with the orchestra, which will be awesome,” O’Neil says. “We value our relationship with the American Traditions competition. They produce such great vocalists, and we’re thrilled to be able to partner with them each year.”
This year’s Holiday Pops also marks a major milestone - Philharmonic Conductor and Artistic Director Peter Shannon’s final holiday concert with the orchestra before he departs at the end of the 10th season. The outgoing conductor’s final Holiday Pops performance will include an opportunity for him to interact with the audience during the show.
“We are delighted as always to bring the full orchestra and chorus together for all of your Christmas favorites. The evening Holiday concerts always have an added extra because we have the American Traditions competition Gold medal winner as our featured soloist,” Shannon said in a statement.
“In the one hour, afternoon children’s concert I get to play Santa Claus by inviting the kids up on stage to conduct! Just those smiles and sights alone make the Holiday concerts one of my favorites in the Philharmonic season!”
O’Neil says that the concert’s continued growth, due in large part to its immense popularity within the community, has been made possible thanks to generous donors like Colonial Oil and Enmarket.
“They are the concert sponsors, and they use this concert to reward and thank their workforce,” she says.
“There’s over 100 folks working at Colonial and Enmarket who Colonial buys tickets for to show appreciation for. So what I see as we grow this concert series is the opportunity for local companies and corporations to use it as a thank-you or an acknowledgment for their staff or workforce.”
The biggest reason that O’Neil and the Philharmonic welcome expansion and growth each year is a simple one - it gives more and more people the chance to experience a unique and special holiday performance.
“During the holiday season, time is so competitive,” she says. “There are so many things going on. So by extending it, it gives us the opportunity to give the gift of music to more people.”