The holidays are my favorite time of year! New York City is bustling with even more energy. The streets are bright with holiday lights, the stores have their windows deocrated, and Rockefeller Center is alive with it's Christmas Tree & ice skating! But what makes this city even better, is the sound of the season coming from Carnegie Hall during The New York Pops annual holiday concert! This year, The New York Pops' concert, Make The Season Bright will feature Tony nominees Liz & Ann Hampton Callaway. I have been a fan of Liz & Ann's for years now. Whenever I need to de-stress, their music is right there to put me at ease. I've been lucky to interview Ann before on "Call Me Adam," but to have my first time interviewing Liz be a joint interview with her & Ann, is a dream come true!
Joining Liz & Ann will be recording artists Will & Anthony Nunziata. Come hear all their amazing voices as they sing some traditional & original holiday music while being backed by one of the world's leading orchestras, The New York Pops, conducted by renowned maestro Steven Reineke. Make The Season Bright will take place on Friday, December 16 & Saturday, December 17 at 8pm at Carnegie Hall in New York City (57th Street & 7th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. This December you are performing with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall for their holiday concert, Make The Season Bright, along with entertainers, recording artists, & brothers Will & Anthony Nunziata. What are you looking forward to most about this collaboration?
Ann Hampton Callaway: I love that we guest artists are a pair of sisters and a pair of brothers who are united in a love for the season and in the joyful celebration of families coming closer together at the holidays. Musically, the harmonies and chemistry we all have together will make for a very entertaining show.
Liz Callaway: I know Will and Anthony on the tennis court, (both are formidable players) but this will be the first time we will be singing together. They are very talented and so sweet, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And the fact that they will be making their Carnegie Hall debuts together in our concerts makes it even more special.
2. What does it mean to you both to be performing together at Carnegie Hall during the holiday season?
Ann Hampton Callaway: It is a thrill. Carnegie Hall is my favorite place in the world to perform. Every time I sing on that stage I feel the energy of Judy Garland and the numerous artists who have sung there before. It inspires me to do my best.
Liz Callaway: Well, Carnegie Hall is Carnegie Hall! And it probably doesn’t get any better than this – the very first time Ann and I performed at Carnegie Hall together was a holiday concert many years ago with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. It was thrilling then and I have no doubt it will be thrilling now!
Ann Hampton Callaway: I'm so happy that Liz and I get to do our arrangement of "Silent Night/Mary Did You Know" that we recorded. It lends such an air of awe for the birth of a great being. It's going to be great fun doing Steven Reineke's roof raising gospel arrangement of "Go Tell It On the Mountain" that I got to sing with The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra a few years ago. It's lovely to sing Bill Schermerhorn's and Wesley Whatley's "Yes, Virginia" that I recorded an Emmy winning single of - the kids will love it. And since "White Christmas" is a Callaway favorite movie, we are excited to join Will and Anthony on a fabulous medley of the Great Irving Berlin score.
Liz Callaway: I’m particularly looking forward to the duet of "Silent Night/Mary Did You Know?" that Ann and I recorded on my Christmas album Merry and Bright – this will be the first time we’re singing it with an orchestra and I’m thrilled by the prospect of that. And given everything that’s happened as of late, I’m really looking forward to singing "Grown-up Christmas List" in this concert and sharing that song with the audience. And the four of us are doing a fabulous arrangement by Maestro Steven Reineke of "Go Tell It On the Mountain" that I think the audiences will love. It will also be a treat to sing with the fabulous Essential Voices USA chorus on several songs including a fun medley from the film White Christmas.
4. What do you enjoy most about working together? Is there ever a competitiveness between you both?
Ann Hampton Callaway: Singing with Liz is always a high for me. There is a psychic musical and emotional connection we have whenever we perform together. It makes music more than just music - I think people feel the love which heightens the experience. As for competition, I think there is a sense of always wanting to do our best when we sing. But we do get very competitive in ping pong. The ruthlessness is a jaw dropping thing to behold!
Liz Callaway: Actually, Ann and I never speak unless we’re working together. It takes a great deal of effort to pretend that we like each other, but we’ve found great success in working together so it’s worth keeping up the act. Ha, ha, ha! Seriously, there’s no one I love singing with more than my sister, Ann. It’s truly one of my favorite things to do.
Ann Hampton Callaway: Sadly, there is an unprecedented degree of divisiveness these days which we need to heal. Music brings us together and erases all boundaries and differences. The holidays are the one time of the year where we all know the same songs no matter what age or background. And when we sing of love and peace it lifts not only our spirits, but our entire attitude about life.
Liz Callaway: I think music is very healing and can bring us all together. And I know this concert will lift people’s spirits. It certainly will lift mine.
6. For someone who's feeling really discouraged this holiday season, what advice would you give them to "Make The Season Bright" and find the Christmas spirit?
Ann Hampton Callaway: My advice is always to reach out and do sweet things for others. Whether for family and friends or for those in need. To show kindness and compassion is not only a great gift to others it is a tremendously uplifting thing for the heart. No matter how challenging life is, there are always others who have it worse and need our support.
Liz Callaway: Stay off social media as much as possible! Or, at least keep it to a minimum. And why don’t we all participate in random acts of kindness this season? Giving to others always helps.
7. As you have shared on social media, this year has been a very challenging year for you both with your mother's health issues. Excitingly, your mom is doing better. How did you find the strength to continue to perform when your mom was at her worst? And as we move into the holiday season, what are some of your favorite Christmas memories you've had with your mom so far?
Ann Hampton Callaway: I've always believed that singing is a blessing. When our mom was particularly challenged we'd tell our mom we'd be singing for her and sometimes shared videos and recordings from our shows to lift her spirits. We made sure her piano was moved into her nursing home room and now that she's better, she plays and sings, brightening the spirits of everyone there. Our mom has always been the life of the party at Christmas gatherings, playing piano for everyone in any key, teaching us our parts in the Hallelujah Chorus, singing favorites from sacred to swing. Looking forward to some good singing together this season!
Liz Callaway: During the roughest times of this past year, performing was actually a great refuge for me. And there are no words to describe how happy we are that Mom is doing so much better. Mom has actually been helping me learn my music for these concerts. And though I don’t think she will be able to come to Carnegie Hall, I feel like she will be a part of the concert nonetheless.
Ann Hampton Callaway: Callaway Christmas traditions like putting out cookies and eggnog for Santa have remained. We always have very spirited sing-alongs, now usually with champagne in hand. On Christmas Eve our mom still reads us The Night Before Christmas and Liz and I have traditional commentary that is always delightfully irreverent. And for as long as I can remember, Christmas morning always begins by playing Robert Shaw's "The Many Moods of Christmas" as loud as possible.
Liz Callaway: Growing up, we always gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols, and we still do. In particular, I love our yearly attempt at singing the Hallelujah chorus. Mom, Ann, and I sing the soprano part but each year I try to sight-read the Alto part with varying degrees of success.
On Christmas Eve, we always got new pajamas! I have continued that tradition with my son, Nicholas. And on Christmas Morning, we still play the Robert Shaw "Many Moods of Christmas" CD when we wake up. A newer tradition (since I got married,) is watching Holiday Inn while trimming our Christmas tree. (oh, LINDA Mason!).
9. If you could give each other one non-material gift this season, what would that gift be?
Ann Hampton Callaway: More time together. Liz and I live five minutes away from each other but with our touring schedules, we often miss more time together. So that would be a great thing.
Liz Callaway: That’s easy, peace of mind!
10. What's your favorite thing to do in NYC during the holiday season?
Ann Hampton Callaway: Share a lovely meal with loved ones. Hear or sing gorgeous music...like at Carnegie Hall!!!
Liz Callaway: I like to go look at the department store windows and the Christmas tree and skating rink at the Rockefeller Center. Our Mom always liked to visit St Patrick’s Cathedral at Christmastime, so I will be taking a trip there this season in her honor for sure.
One of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, Ann has made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host, and producer. She won the Theatre World Award and received a Tony nomination for her starring role in the Broadway musical Swing! Ann made her Hollywood screen debut in Robert DeNiro's The Good Shepherd and was featured in the soundtrack of Queen Latifah’s Last Holiday. She has written over 250 songs, including platinum award-winning hits for Barbra Streisand and the theme for the hit TV series The Nanny. She performs the critically acclaimed acts Sibling Revelry and Boom! with Broadway star and sister Liz Callaway. Recently, Ann has taken the symphony world by storm with her tribute to her legendary mentor in The Streisand Songbook, which she premiered with The Boston Pops and has performed with over 70 symphonies. Her 2014 CD, From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project, was released to rave reviews and went a long way in establishing Ann as one of the premier jazz voices in the world. Mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Todd Whitelock, it is Ann's first live solo CD, recorded at the height of her vocal and interpretive powers. Down Beat gave her latest CD The Hope Of Christmas four stars and said: "A glorious gift of new music comes from Ann Hampton Callaway, a Tony-nominated Broadway and cabaret singer-songwriter with a genuine feel for jazz. Using impeccable phrasing, she infuses the music of The Hope Of Christmas with a refined jollity." For more information, see www.annhamptoncallaway.com.
Tony nominee and Emmy winner Liz Callaway made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. She has gone on to star in Baby, Miss Saigon, The Look of Love, The Three Musketeers, and for 5 years appeared as "Grizabella" in Cats. Off-Broadway appearances include The Spitfire Grill (Drama Desk nomination), No Way to Treat a Lady, Marry Me a Little, and Brownstone. Liz sang the Academy Award-nominated song "Journey to the Past" in the animated feature Anastasia. Other film work includes "Jasmine" in the two Aladdin sequels, The Swan Princess, and The Rewrite with Hugh Grant. She received an Emmy Award for hosting Ready to Go, a daily, live children’s program on CBS in Boston. Other TV credits include In Performance at the White House, Inside the Actors Studio: Stephen Sondheim, The David Letterman Show, and Senior Trip (CBS Movie of the Week). Her extensive concert and symphony career has included appearances in London, Paris, Iceland, Vietnam, Australia, China, and nearly every major city in the U.S. She performs regularly with her sister Ann Hampton Callaway, as well as composer Stephen Schwartz, and has had the great pleasure of singing with Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams and the legendary Johnny Mathis. Liz has six solo recordings: The Essential Liz Callaway, Passage of Time, The Beat Goes On, The Story Goes On: Liz Callaway On and Off- Broadway, Anywhere I Wander: Liz Callaway Sings Frank Loesser, and her Christmas album Merry and Bright. www.lizcallaway.com
Steven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Principal Pops Conductor Designate for the Houston Symphony, beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Steven is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Steven’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Batare performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Steven is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.
The New York Pops is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Under the leadership of dynamic Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke, The New York Pops continues to re-imagine orchestral pops music. The orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall, as well as a summer concert series at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals, and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. PopsEd allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun. Visit www.newyorkpops.org for more information. Follow The New York Pops on Facebook (facebook.com/newyorkpops), Instagram (@thenewyorkpops), and Twitter (@newyorkpops).