Holiday Pops

Friday, December 10, 2021, 8pm | Hill Auditorium

Behind the Music

Kick off the holidays with some festive revelry, as conductor Kazem Abdullah hits the stage with a sleigh-full of audience favorites including selections from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. An evergreen classic on the Ann Arbor concert calendar, our Holiday Pops event is sure to delight music lovers young and old. Take your celebrations to new heights with your A2SO this December!


Kazem Abdullah, conductor

Leah Crocetto, soprano

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a

Arr. John Moss Holiday Sing-Along

Arr. Dan Goeller O Holy Night

Leroy Anderson Sleigh Ride

Holiday favorites for full orchestra (arr. Kazem Abdullah):

Winter Wonderland Medley (I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus)

Panis Angelicus

Let it Snow

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

White Christmas

Joy to the World Medley

Adeste Fidelis

A Christmas Song

Away in a Manger

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Kazem Abdullah, conductor 


American conductor Kazem Abdullah currently lives in Nürnberg, Germany. He was Music and Artistic Director of the City of Aachen, Germany from 2012 to 2017. During his tenure, he succeeded in reaching newer and diverse audiences through innovative programming and moving out of the concert hall, and into atypical venues. In addition to exploring new venues to bring concerts to audiences and experimenting with juxtapositions of styles in non-traditional concert formats, he also performed over 25 operas and collaborated with musicians such as Johannes Moser, Lise de la Salle, Angela Gheorghiu, Augustin Haedelich, and Midori.

A passionate advocate of new music as well as established repertoire, Mr. Abdullah continues to develop relationships with national and international orchestras and opera houses. Among his recent orchestral credits are the symphony orchestras of Oregon, Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. In addition to his symphony engagements, he recently conducted an opera gala for the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the American premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s opera Brokeback Mountain with the New York City Opera, and Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda for Cape Town Opera.

Of special note are three acclaimed orchestral engagements: leading the Orquestra de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s most celebrated classical music ensembles, on its third United States coast-to-coast tour, conducting the New World Symphony’s 2009 Ives In-Context Festival by special invitation from Michael Tilson Thomas, and substituting on very short notice to conduct the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in performances of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

In the opera arena, Mr. Abdullah has guest conducted such esteemed companies as the Atlanta Opera, where he conducted Così fan tutte, and the Théâtre du Châtelet de Paris, where he led sold-out performances of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha. Mr. Abdullah made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009 conducting Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

Trained as a clarinetist, Kazem Abdullah has performed extensively as an orchestral musician, chamber musician, and soloist. He spent two seasons as a member of the New World Symphony and has performed as a soloist with many orchestras including the Cincinnati and National Symphony Orchestras. He has also performed with prominent chamber ensembles such as the Paris based Trio Wanderer and the Auryn Quartet.

A dedicated educator, Mr. Abdullah has worked with student band and orchestras in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Interlochen, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, Tanglewood, and at universities in Cologne, Aachen, and Stellenbosch, South Africa. He was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by his alma mater, CCM where he worked with the students there and spoke at their commencement in 2015.

Born in Indiana, Mr. Abdullah began his music studies at the age of 10 with clarinet and piano. He studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and the University of Southern California.



Described by The New York Times as possessing an “agile coloratura technique and a
 feeling for the Italianate style… with warmth, full penetrating sound and tenderness,”
 American soprano Leah Crocetto continues to astonish audiences with her moving
 portrayals of opera’s greatest heroines. Ms. Crocetto began the 2021-22 season starring
 as Leonora in Verdi’s Il trovatore at Toledo Opera. She made her debut with Washington
 Concert Opera as Anna from Rossini’s Maometto II. Additionally, she returns to Opera
 Australia as Leonora in Il trovatore at the Sydney Opera House and joins the company in Melbourne for concert performances of Boito’s Mefistofele as Margherita. Her concert appearances include a concert at The Croswell in Adrian, Michigan, to celebrate the return of live performances, and she sings a recital with her longtime collaborator, pianist Mark Markham, at the Lexington Bach Festival.

In the 2020-21 season, Leah made her highly anticipated debut at Opera Australia, starring as the title role in Davide Livermore’s thrilling production of Aida. Her portrayal was hailed as a “revelation,” with Stage Whispers praising that “nothing can truly prepare one to hear such stunning vocal control in person. A perfect, sudden pianissimo, deftly deployed in O, Patria mia!, was just one of the many moments that had the audience spellbound.” This season also marked the release of Deutsche Grammophon’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring Ms. Crocetto as a soloist.

On the concert stage, Leah starred in Citizens of Song’s “Christmas From Afar” event featuring over 25 acts and up to 400 performers from around the world. She was the Featured Artist in Merola Opera Program’s “Un Gala in Maschera” virtual benefit concert honoring Sheri Greenawald. Ms. Crocetto also led multiple teaching residencies in the 2020-21 season: at the University of Texas-Austin, Siena Heights University, Potomac Vocal Institute, and Washington National Opera.

In the 2019-20 season, Ms. Crocetto returned to Washington National Opera as Desdemona in Otello, followed by performances as Liù in Turandot with Palm Beach Opera and Verdi’s Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The following engagements were unfortunately canceled due to the global pandemic, including the title role of Norma at Pittsburgh Opera and Aida with Opera Australia.

This is Ms. Crocetto’s first appearance with the A2SO.

by the numbers

A2SO staff members

Number of Santa's reindeer (incl. Rudolph)

Musicians in Your A2SO