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Grand Rapids Symphony's 2020-21 Pops Series Announced

Celebrating songs of the '80s, music from Star Trek, welcoming Broadway's Leslie Odom Jr. and more!

For Immediate Release

Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2020-21 Pops series celebrates songs of the ‘80s, music from Star Trek, welcomes Broadway’s Leslie Odom Jr.

Full-length films with live music include ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘Coco’ and ‘The Princess Bride’

GRAND RAPIDS, MI, Feb. 26, 2020 – Exciting evenings of epic music, sensational cinema, show tunes, sci-fi, and more are coming to the Grand Rapids Pops stage in its 2020-21 season.

Movies with music and music from movies, the biggest hits by the biggest recording artists of the 1980s, a semi-staged production of South Pacific, and the return of Cirque de Noël all are part of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s six concert Fox Motors Pops series, three-concert SymphonicBoom Series, plus special events that are part of the 2020-21 season.

“The 2020-21 season is a combination of stellar performances, family entertainment, and great fun for everyone,” said Bob Bernhardt, Principal Pops Conductor.

Exceptional events begin in September with a one-night only appearance by Leslie Odom, Jr., who starred as Aaron Burr in the original Broadway production of Hamilton. Special events continue in January 2021 with the final two films, plus live music, in the Harry Potter Film Concert Series.

Subscriptions are now on sale for the 2020-21 season, and subscribers have the first opportunity to buy tickets for Leslie Odom Jr on Sept. 16. Bernhardt said he’s “enormously excited” to work with the star of stage and screen, recently seen as Williams Still in the Oscar-nominated film Harriet.

“Since he exploded onto the scene in the original cast of Hamilton, his career has rocketed upward,” Bernhardt said. “We in Grand Rapids will finally have our chance to see and hear this multitalented superstar on stage with our orchestra.

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Grand Rapids Symphony, 2020-21 Pops, page 2

The Grand Rapids Pops 2020-21 season, led by Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, will take you back to the 1980s with an all-new evening of the greatest pop/rock hits from the 1980s including The Power of Love, Physical, Addicted to Love, Take Me Home Tonight, I’ve Had the Time of My Life plus music by Queen, Madonna, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston and Phil Collins and more.

The season also takes you to the final frontier with music of Star Trek that spans the entire franchise from the small screen in the 1960s to the silver screen of today.

Five stellar films plus live music include The Polar Express, The Princess Bride and Coco, plus Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2.

All-time audience favorites returning to DeVos Performance Hall will include the 12th annual Cirque de Noël in December, and Grand Rapids Symphony’s Symphony with Soul, celebrating its 20th anniversary in February 2021 with a special guest to be announced later.

The six concert Fox Motors Pops series opens Sept. 18-19 with Decades: Back to the ‘80s, a brand-new show with arrangements by Grammy-winner Jeff Tyzik that’ll bring to life songs such as Sweet Dreams Are Made of These, Ghostbusters and Time After Time.

“There will be great singers and great songs that dare you to stay still in your seat,” Bernhardt said.

The Polar Express in Concert on Nov. 6-8 will be the Grand Rapids Symphony debut of the film inspired by the illustrated story by Grand Rapids’ own Chris Van Allsburg. See the iconic holiday film starring the voice of Tom Hanks and watch out for Grand Rapids references such as Herpolsheimer’s Department Store.

“We’re excited to be showing The Polar Express while the orchestra plays Alan Silvestri’s fantastic soundtrack live-to-film,” Bernhardt said. “This is a chance to see – and hear – this instant family classic in a new and thrilling way.”

Singer and pianist Tony DeSare brings the swagger of Sinatra back to town Dec. 3-6 for the Metro Health Holiday Pops where you’ll enjoy the voices of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus in concerts featuring music including Sleigh Ride and a Christmas Carol sing-along. Six performances include three evenings, two afternoon matinees, and a shorter one-hour morning concert.

“If you haven’t heard Tony’s ’19 Versions of Jingle Bells,’ you will not want to miss this,” Bernhardt said.

Trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling, a local favorite, returns to lead the parade Jan. 29-30, 2021, with Mardi Gras in New Orleans, with plenty of hot, traditional jazz made famous by Louis Armstrong plus more music by New Orleans icons Fats Domino and Mahalia Jackson.

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“Byron’s a splendid trumpeter, singer and entertainer,” Bernhardt said. “I’m so proud to be working with him again.”

South Pacific is best known as the 1958 film starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi, but the Grand Rapids Pops brings the flavor of the original 1949 Broadway musical to town March 5-6, 2021, with South Pacific in Concert, a semi-staged production of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show that won 10 Tony Awards and the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

“I’ve always wanted us to do some complete or semi-staged works at the Pops, whether Broadway or operetta or whatever, so I’m thrilled we’re doing this, and I hope it’s a big hit,” Bernhardt said.

The Fox Motors Pops season wraps up May 7-8, 2021, with Beam Me Up: The Music of Star Trek with music that spans the entire franchise from the original 1960s TV show; from the films of the 1980s starring the original cast; from the later TV series in the 1990s including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager; and from the latest movie reboots of the past 10 years.

“It’s a guilty pleasure of mine,” Bernhardt said. “We’ll be exploring the music from the original TV series and great movie scores from the franchise by Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Michael Giacchino and others.”

The three-concert SymphonicBoom series, led by Associate Conductor John Varineau, features two great films plus a live stage show in DeVos Hall.

Coco: A Live-to-Film Concert Experience features the live-to-picture animated film about 12 year-old Miguel who travels to the Land of the Dead to seek help from his musician great-great-grandfather. The two-time Oscar winning film includes the Grand Rapids Symphony performing Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score for one-night only on Oct. 10.

Cirque de la Symphonie’s company of acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and aerial artists return Dec. 16-17 for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s annual Cirque de Noël with holiday music and classical favorites accompanying amazing feats of artistry and strength on and soaring above the stage.

The Princess Bride in Concert brings the beloved 1987 film by Rob Reiner to DeVos Hall for one-night only on Jan. 9, 2021, with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, kissing, and much more. Join the Grand Rapids Pops on the journey through the Fire Swamp and shrieking eel-infested waters and witness the triumph of true love.

The 2020-21 season also will see the Grand Rapids Pops final visits to the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling. In 2017, the Grand Rapids Symphony first brought the Harry Potter Film Concert Series to DeVos Hall with the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’ Stone. The eight-film series wraps up with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, both on the same weekend, Jan. 23-24, 2021.

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Grand Rapids Symphony, 2020-21 Pops, page 4

Grand Rapids Symphony previously announced its 2020-21 Classical Series earlier in February and its 2020 D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops Series in January. Go online to for additional information.


Season tickets are on sale now for the 2020-21 Fox Motors Pops series and the SymphonicBoom series. Subscriptions are available at discounts of up to 20 percent off tickets for either the six-concert Fox Motors Pops or the three-concert SymphonicBoom series.

Current subscribers have until March 13 to renew their subscriptions and get a 20 percent discount on the special event with Leslie Odom, Jr. when they renew. Single tickets go on sale beginning May 11.

Tickets are available at the GRS ticket office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm, at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $6 per ticket service fee, with an $18 maximum per order).

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts, the breadth of its educational programs, and the innovation of its efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion as well as to serve the wider community in non-traditional settings. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, the Grand Rapids Symphony presents nine concert series each year. Its Gateway to Music provides a matrix of 18 unique access and educational programs for adults and children of all ages. Altogether, West Michigan’s largest performing arts organization offers more than 400 performances per year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens or people with disabilities. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, and the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in April 2021. GRS collaborates annually with Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet and biennially with the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Grand Rapids Symphony's 2020-21 Pops Series Announced
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