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Back Home for the Holidays and The New York Pops Returns to the Stage after 22 months with Kelli O’Hara at Carnegie Hall



On December 17th, the first clash of the cymbals showed the audience at Carnegie Hall that after 22 months The New York Pops was back on stage and the 2021 holiday season was well on its way.

Earlier in the week Covid again reminded us that it had not yet been permanently put in the history books. While the Rockettes were forced to stop kicking, Hamilton stop rapping and Moulin Rouge stop lifting their skirts, The New York Pops showed that they still can can with the help of Kelli O’Hara. Laura Benanti was originally supposed to headline the Back for the Holidays celebration; but, she was in contact with a Covid positive individual earlier in the week and Kelli donned her holiday apparel to take her place.

Under the musical direction of Steven Reinecke, The New York Pops once again filled Carnegie Hall with holiday cheer with a wonderful overture. Kelli walked onto the stage in a beautiful red gown (which we find out later was lent to her by Ms Benanti) that transformed Ms O’Hara into a most beautiful Christmas tree topper. Singing a joyful “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Kelli showed us why she is one of Broadway’s leading ladies. Paying tribute to another leading lady of Broadway, Kelli honored Barbara Cook with her rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” She then reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas as she gave us “I Wonder as I Wander,” a Christian folk hymn dating from 1933.

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Leaving the stage for her second of four costume changes, she left us alone with Mr Reineke and The Pops who took us on a wonderful “Sleigh Ride“. Despite the temperature outside that day reaching an unseasonably warm high 50’s; the magic of The Pops with the exciting orchestrations transported us onto a brisk ride through imagined snow with the real neighing sound of the leading horses. As an added bonus I was able to see how they were able to create the sound of the whip to make the sleigh go faster (and no horses were harmed in the playing of this song.)

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

“I Saw Three Ships,” is a traditional English carol dating back to the 17th Century. The meaning of the three ships is always in question: the three wise men following the Christmas star?, three ships bringing religious relics to Germany in the 12th Century or a reference to good prince Wenceslaus. All of those references bring to mind small wooden sailing ships but The Pops with their exciting arrangement by Matthew Jackfert brought to mind three very distinct ships ranging from a small fishing boat to a Cutty Sark to an aircraft carrier. From the image of great sailing vessels, The Pops next brought us the beautiful melodies of the Carol of the Bells.

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Kelli returned to the stage in a slit Christmas green dress which allowed her to “get crazy” as she finished the first half of the show dancing and singing to “Man with the Bag,” But first she gave us “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “A Place Called Home” from Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol. I was unfamiliar with this song as was Kelli, who admitted the same but has now put this in her playlist for the future. You could imagine a young 12 year old Scrooge singing this as old Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past looks on.

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

After Intermission The Pops returned with “Jingle Bell Rock,” which was brought to lively heights with horns and an electric guitar.

Hanukkah came early this year from November 28 to December 6 and although all the candles on the city’s menorahs had been lit for over ten days, The Pops celebrated the holiday with the traditional “Mis Zeh Hidlik (Behold the Lights).” The English horn was the highlight of this arrangement played by a young lady whose name I sadly did not hear. From the quiet of the English horn Mr Reineke jazzed up the orchestra with I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm which included short solos on the electric guitar, piano and trumpet.

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Kelli O’Hara returned to the stage now in a glittering silver dress adorned with crystal by Oscar de la Renta. She now complimented her tree topper first dress as a shimmering piece of tinsel and sang “Winter Wonderland.” She followed that with another tribute to Barbara Cook, whom she sang with years earlier on the Carnegie Hall stage, with Ms Cook’s version of “The Christmas Song.”

Ms O’Hara welcomed her guest performer (who was originally Ms Benanti’s planned guest), Brandon Michael Nase. Mr Nase was not a stranger to Kelli as she had worked with him on his nonprofit organization Broadway for Racial Justice (BFRJ) that fights for racial justice and equity in the theater community. Not just an organizer, Mr Nase is also a talented singer who has performed in Cats, Showboat, and Evita; he shared his gift in a duet with Kelli from “White Christmas” and “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).”

Kelli exited, leaving the stage to Brandon who gleefully exclaimed that this was his Carnegie Hall debut which I’m sure made the words “a very special Christmas” even more meaningful as he sang them in Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas. He should be proud of his first Carnegie Hall solo.

As Brandon left stage left Santa with his peppermint patterned masked elf entered stage right wishing us all a Merry Christmas” and taking Mr Reineke’s baton to conduct the Pops while dancing on the conductor’s platform.

Kelli O’Hara Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Kelli entered as a vision of pure white snow in a crystal shining gown with a ruffled bottom. Ms O’Hara’s operatic voice truly came out as she sang “O Holy Night.” It is an amazing thing when one voice can be so strong and beautiful that an entire choir can be heard from that solo performer. With Mr Reineke’s conducting the glorious New York Pops, Carnegie Hall was transformed to all the grandeur and emotion of a Christmas service in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. 

Kelli O’Hara,  Greg Naughton Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Despite Ms O’Hara and Mr Reineke leaving the stage we knew the evening was not over and they soon returned with Mr Nase. Kelli and Brandon sang a duet of “Auld Lang Syne.”The song was a perfect way to end the evening as it is the traditional midnight song on New Year’s Eve. Even more poignant in 2021 as we look forward to a better 2022. Yes we do look back and want to leave the hardships that the past year…past 22 months… have presented us; but, it is also a song that makes us look forward to better times, healthier times, happier times and definitely more times with Ms O’Hara, Mr Nase, Mr Reineke and The New York Pops.

Brandon Michael Nase, Kelli O’Hara, Steven Reineke, Santa Claus and Pecan Pie Photo’s by Genevieve Rafter Keddy


Happy Chanukah Day 2: Light One Candle With The Carney’s



“Light One Candle” is a song by the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. This popular Chanukah song was performed in concerts starting in 1982 at Carnegie Hall, before recording it for their 1986 studio album No Easy Walk to Freedom.

At The Carney’s concert in 2019 I was introduced to this song. Reeve as a young child was part of the children’s choir to sing back up at Carnegie Hall.

I feel in love with the lyric and sentiment so from T2C to you we wish you a happy Hanukkah

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Head To The The Algonquin Hotel For Some Holiday Cheer



As we head into the holiday season, The Algonquin Hotel’s December event lineup is open to both hotel guests and New York City locals. The hotel will spread holiday cheer with a variety of festive performances, cocktails, and experiences including:

  • Cocoa and Carols Happy Hour: Daily, 5-8PM, Every evening this December, all are invited to enjoy Specialty Cocoa while Christmas carols chime at the Blue Bar. Drinks will include Mexican Hot Chocolate spiked with mezcal
  • KT Sullivan Cabaret:  December 5th, 12th and 19th, Sullivan will perform her iconic Christmas Cabaret. As noted by The New York Times, Sullivan is a thrilling Off-Broadway performer with over eight published albums
  • Rocco Dellaneve’s Rat Pack Christmas: December 7th, 14th and 21st, Rocco Dellaneve will perform iconic songs from the Rat Pack Christmas album with special inclusions of Santa with Sinatra, Rocco of the Snow, Rudolph and the Rat pack
  • The Serafina’s and Broadway Vocalists: December 8th, 15th and 22nd, enjoy the high kicking – precision line dancing Christmas tradition around The Algonquin tree. The Serafina’s will be available for pictures and autographs from 6pm to 7pm, followed by special Broadway vocalists

A portion of proceeds from all events will be donated to Toys for Tots.

Beyond the December events, The Algonquin Hotel is located in a prime position nestled in the heart of Times Square and Fifth Avenue, making it the perfect launchpad for a New York City holiday experience. The hotel is a historical jewel that emphasizes the importance of making unique, storied experiences. Since its opening in 1902, The Algonquin Hotel is famous for its timeless style and desire to honor the literary and cultural elite. The distinguished Round Table Restaurant and Blue Bar offer tasteful dining inclusions and curated cocktails that are sure to excite everyone.

Photo credit: The Algonquin Hotel, Autograph Collection


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The Glorious Corner



Taylor Swift

G.H. Harding

TREE LIKE ME — Monday morning, gossip-sites were ablaze with this missive from one Tree Paine – Taylor Swift’s publicist – about swirling rumors about the singer’s love life:  Travis Kelce’s sister-in-law, Kylie Kelce, subtly supported Taylor Swift after the “Anti-Hero” singer’s publicist clapped back at rumors about her love life. Eagled-eyed fans noticed that Kylie “liked” a post from the Today Show  about Tree Paine slamming celebrity gossip blog DeuxMoi for spreading “fabricated lies” about Swift’s relationship with ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn.

Ms. Paine’s PR-firm is called Premium PR and by all accounts, the Nashville-based mistress has had a great ride with Swift. As we go to press, Time Magazine just named her their person of the year.

Back in the day, ZZ Top and Michael Jackson had Howard Bloom; Debbie Gibson and Run DMC had David Salidor; Elton and the Rolling Stones have Fran Curtis; and Billy and Alexa Joel and Christie Brinkley have Claire Mecuri … all stars in our book, but Ms. Paine has Swift.

Brenda Lee

BRENDA LEE — (from People) Brenda Lee has a reason to celebrate the holidays early this year.

On Monday, the singer’s 1958 classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time, 65 years following its debut.

In claiming the top spot, Lee broke many records — including those held by Mariah Carey and her mega hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” — as her hit became the third holiday No. 1 ever to be featured on the Hot 100, per a press release.

This marks Lee’s third No. 1 hit in her career. She earned her first No. 1 with her 1960 single “I’m Sorry.”

Lee was just 13 years old when she recorded the Johnny Marks-penned hit debut, and at 78, she’s now the oldest woman to top the Hot 100, surpassing previous record-holders Cher for “Believe” when she was 52 and Carey for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at 53.

In a press release statement, Lee called the song’s latest achievement “amazing. “I cannot believe that ‘Rockin’’ has hit No. 1 65 years after it was released, this is just so special!” she said. “Thank you to the team at UMG/UMe who worked so hard to celebrate the song’s anniversary this year. But most importantly, thank you to the fans who keep listening.”

Lee continued: “The song came out when I was a young teenager and now to know that it has resonated with multiple generations and continues to resonate — it is one of the best gifts I have ever received. Keep on Rockin’ and Merry Christmas!”

Last month, Lee released the first-ever music video for her Christmas classic, which features cameos from Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. Here’s the link: 

In addition to the music video, she shared the EP, A Rockin’ Christmas with Brenda Lee, in November featuring “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and other holiday favorites including “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bell Rock” “A Marshmallow World” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” reimagined by Filous.

For record aficionados: The song was originally released on Decca Records in 1958. Dub Allbritten became Lee’s personal manager in 1956 and remained in that position throughout her formative years. In May 1956, Lee signed with Decca and two months later had her first recording session, supervised by Paul Cohen with the assistance of Owen Bradley

SHORT TAKES — RIP Denny Laine – best remembered from The Moody Blues (“Go Now”) and Paul McCartney’s Wings – and their best album Band On The Run. I loved “Go Now” btw. Here’s Roger Friedman’s take via SHOWBIZ 411:

Denny Laine; Linda and Paul McCartney

I didn’t see any reviews from Debbie Gibson’s 2 shows last week at NYC’s Gramercy Theater but Yahoo did run a headline that she had 5 costume changes! They were in support of her 2022 holiday Winterlicious album …The Kennedy Center Honors had their event this past weekend. Congrats all. Can’t wait to see the show next week. Here’s Deadline’s take:

Debbie Gibson (by Troy Smith)

Here’s celebrity-biographer Mark Bego’s interview with NEWHD’s Zach Martin: … RIP Norman Lear; Happy Bday Anthony Noto … On the mend: Jerry Lembo!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Kimberly Cornell; Joe Lynch; Victor Kastel; Peter Shendell; Eppy; Kent Kotal; Roy Trakin; Melinda Newman; Tyson Terror; Vincent D’Onofrio; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Sasha Peres; Jacqueline Boyd; Cairo; Tanya Tenor; Jonathan Wolfson; Brad LeBeau; Wayne Rosso; Thomas Silverman; and ZIGGY!

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Celebrate Hanukkah With Manhattan’s Favorites



The Festival of Lights, starts today Thursday, December 7th and goes through Friday, December 15th. From classic Jewish foods to fan-favorite chocolates, there are many options to celebrate Hanukkah in New York City.

New York’s iconic Li-Lac Chocolates, celebrating its 100th Anniversary has been enjoyed by generations of locals and tourists alike. Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, Li-Lac, has remained true to its tradition maintaining the same single-minded focus on product quality. Its confections are handmade daily in its Brooklyn Factory using many of the original techniques and equipment from 1923.

Li-Lac Chocolates makes for the perfect Hanukkah gift for friends and family. They have a broad selection of specialty molds and gifts, now offering more than 120 items making it one of the largest selections of gourmet chocolates in the world.

All of its chocolates are certified Kosher and gluten-free.

A few gift options for Hanukkah include:

  • Dreidel Filled with Gelt
  • 20 pc. Chanukah Chocolate Gift Box
  • Chest of Gelt
  • Menorah Pop

The full list of Hannukah chocolates may be viewed here.

To learn more about Li-Lac Chocolates rich history, you may view a comprehensive press release here.

Store locations: Industry City/Brooklyn, Greenwich Village, Bleeker Street, Chelsea Market, Hudson Yards and Grand Central Market.

Ships: via FedEx in the United States and Canada.


The popular Upper East Side Jewish Delicatessen PJ Bernstein will be rolling out a special Hanukkah menu, available for catering, delivery, takeout as well as dining in.

One of the last remaining of its kind, PJ Bernstein has been a staple in its neighborhood since opening its doors on the northeast corner of 70th St. and 3rd Ave. Serving the classics since 1965, it continues to be a hotspot for locals and celebrities, attracting the likes of Mayor Ed Koch, Liza Minelli, 2 James Bonds in Sean Connery and Daniel Craig, and Cuba Gooding Jr., to name a few.

Highlights of their Hanukkah menu include the following, but are not limited to:

  • A Special Prix Fixe Menu with a Mixed Green Salad, Matzoh Ball Soup, Brisket with Mini Latkes, Kasha Varnishka, Gravy, Apple Sauce, and a Mini Danish.


  • Famous Potato Latkes, a holiday favorite
  • Baked Knishes


  • Smoked Sturgeon
  • White Fish Salad
  • Roasted Chicken


  • Baked Sweet Potato
  • Egg Barley


  • Chocolate Rugelach
  • Challah Bread

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PUBLIC Hotel’s Holiday Bash Warms Up the Season in Style




This past week at PUBLIC Hotel’s holiday celebration warmed up the chilly season in style. The launch of the popular rooftop igloos was the toast of the town.

Guests enjoyed music by Chelsea Leyland and a special performance by Frex, who performed four songs including her upcoming single “used to” featuring Jordan Ward.

Discover your own luxury and style at Ian Schrager’s hotel in the heart of New York City. With a chic and sophisticated vibe, there is nothing as unique and superb as this fabulous location.

Private, heated Igloos are now open. To make a reservation, click here. 

Be sure to indicate igloo seating or indoor seating within your request. Each igloo has a capacity of 8-10 people with a 2 person minimum and 2.5 hour time limit when making a reservation.



Photos by @shutherspeed

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