Christmas on Bleecker: Celebrating the Reason

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Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry today. Having sold millions of records worldwide, Vanessa has also achieved numerous #1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard Album and Singles charts: Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel, and Jazz. 


Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings, and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliate including 4 Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, 3 SAG award nominations, 7 NAACP Image Awards and 3 Satellite Awards. Her platinum single "Colors of the Wind," from the Disney’s Pocahontas, won the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. 


A graduate of Syracuse University, Vanessa is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the gay community and minorities. She was honored with the Human Rights Campaign “Ally for Equality” Award for her humanitarian contributions. Vanessa also achieved a career pinnacle with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.


Vanessa’s autobiography, “You Have No Idea,” co-written with her mother Helen Williams, was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012. Her recent Broadway credits include co-starring with Cicely Tyson in The Trip to Bountiful, (the #1 play of the 2013 season), After Midnight (2014), and a special limited engagement in Hey, Look Me Over at New York City Center in 2018. Vanessa is currently in Josie Rourke’s City of Angels in London’s West End. 


Vanessa is the mother of four - Melanie, Jillian, Devin and Sasha. Her charitable endeavors are many and varied, embracing, and supporting such organizations as Concerts for America, Special Olympics and several others. Vanessa is involved with and committed to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. 


Vanessa is one of the world’s most accomplished concert artists, appearing regularly with the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world, most recently with the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.


Darlene Love

Rolling Stone Magazine has proclaimed Darlene Love to be “one of the greatest singers of all time” and that certainly rings true, but perhaps Paul Shaffer says it even more concisely: “Darlene Love is Rock N’ Roll!” - which was made official when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bette Midler, a great fan of her work, in 2011.


Through the years, Darlene Love continues to captivate audiences worldwide with her warm, gracious stage presence and superb performances. At the Academy Awards, Darlene sang her powerful acceptance speech on behalf of all of the performers in the winning film Twenty Feet From Stardom. As she raised the Oscar, the entire house stood with a cheering ovation, led by the wildly applauding Bill Murray. It was another special moment in a great career. A GRAMMY Award soon followed for the soundtrack of the film.


Since the early sixties, Darlene has appeared on numerous television programs and on Broadway, running the gamut from her weekly appearances on Shindig to a recent guest spot on the PBS special entitled Women Who Rock.


An autobiographical film is currently on the drawing board with a development deal from Oprah Winfrey based on the book My Name is Love, written by Darlene. Her Billboard hits include: He’s A Rebel, The Boy I’m Gonna Marry, Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home, He’s Sure the Boy I Love and the #1 holiday classic Christmas Baby Please Come Home, a song that she performed annually with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Symphony Orchestra on The Late Show With David Letterman for some 29 years before David retired. To continue this long standing tradition, Darlene performs a number of special Christmas shows every year and continues to enchant her fans with Christmas spirit.


Ronan Tynan

Dr. Ronan Tynan is known for his versatile range of repertoire.  It includes the operatic, oratorio, concert, and popular music genres. Dr. Tynan first gained international attention in 1994 after having won Go For It, a televised singing competition in the United Kingdom.  A practicing orthopedist at the time, Dr. Tynan continued his music training at the Leinster School of Music and Drama in Dublin, Ireland and continued at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England earning a post-graduate Diploma in Voice.   In 1998 he became a member of The Irish Tenors, a group with whom he continues to tour with today.  Through the years he has participated in Master Classes with Luciano Pavarotti, Italian tenor Ugo Benelli, Australian tenor Ken Neath, American tenor James King, and American soprano Cynthia Lawrence.

Dr. Tynan is currently the Alltech Visiting Artist in Residence with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre teaching Vocal Performance, Voice and Repertoire classes with a focus in oratorio and opera at the undergraduate and graduate level.  Dr. Tynan has appeared in concert halls across the United States and internationally, recently selling out Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre in August 2019 and 4 sell out performances with the Irish Tenors at the National Concert Hall and INEC Killarney earlier in 2019 .  He is a Sony recording artist who has released more than 10 titles, 4 of which have achieved platinum status. Additionally, between 1981 and 1984, Dr. Tynan, a bi-lateral amputee, amassed eighteen gold medals and fourteen world records while participating in the Paralympics, of which he still holds nine.

Dr. Tynan has performed for four U.S. Presidents including President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, as the single soloist at the funerals of both President George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and for President Clinton. As well, Dr. Tynan has sung for two Popes, Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica and Pope Benedict at the Concert of Hope. He has also performed at numerous benefits and memorials for the New York Police and Fire Departments following 9/11 and continues to have a strong bond with those devoting their lives to public service.  Dr. Tynan is also a sought after motivational speaker, having more than 30 engagements annually.


Julie Benko

Julie Benko, an award-winning actress, singer, and writer based in NYC,  is currently marching her band out all across Broadway as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl every Thursday (in addition to stepping in whenever Lea Michele is out). Her new album, Hand in Hand (Club44 Records) is now available on hard copy and wherever music is streaming. You can also listen to her debut jazz album on Spotify here!

Julie is a recipient of the Wilde Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as Girl in Once. She also received a BroadwayWorld nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Luisa in The Fantasticks, as well as Theatre Bay Area Awards and SF Critics Circle Awards Best Featured Actress in a Musical nominations for her interpretation of Bella in Rags. She holds a BFA in Drama and an MFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

In addition to lending her voice to the 85th Academy Awards and the 70th Tony Awards ceremonies, Julie took home the Gold Medal and the Johnny Mercer Award in the national American Traditions Vocal Competition. In spring 2021, she was named a semi-finalist in the international Lotte Lenya Competition.

​Julie recently wrote, directed, and starred in her first short, "The Newlywed's Guide to Physical Intimacy." The film won an Honorable Mention at its premiere July 2020 premiere at New Faces New Voices Film Festival and has since gained admission and won praise in numerous other festivals. Her first full-length play, "The District," was named a semifinalist at the 2022 Eugene O'Neil National Playwrights Conference.

She spent the pandemic raising money for various charities via her "Quarantunes" musical duo series with jazz pianist (and her spouse) Jason Yeager, picking up French and Yiddish on DuoLingo, and fulfilling her lifelong dream of learning to play the clarinet.

Frank Shiner

Without question, popular performer Frank Shiner (winner of two L.A. Music Critic Awards) has demonstrated his finely-honed ability to put his own unique stamp on classic material previously recorded by others via his sophomore album, LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET.  Turning in stellar performances on songs popularized by such artists as The Rascals, Brook Benton, Sam & Dave, Elton John, Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway, Frank has created a tour-de-force collection of twelve songs from the songbooks of legendary writers such as Randy Newman, Doc Pomus, Isaac Hayes & David Porter and Tony Joe White among others.


“I decided to do ‘blue-eyed soul’ for my second album,” explains the New York resident, using a term that was first coined by renowned black radio personality Georgie Woods in the mid-‘60s when referencing The Righteous Brothers.  “I’ve always been intrigued by and loved the genre which has really morphed into including artists like my heroes Hall & Oates, Amy Winehouse and others.”


Indeed, with LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET, Frank can most assuredly add his name to the list of bona fide ‘blue-eyed soul’ purveyors thanks to his passionate reading of such songs as “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (written by Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who first recorded it and best known for a 1973 recording by late Donny Hathaway) and “Love Is A Losing Game” from the catalog of Amy Winehouse. Notes Frank, “There is a little Donny Hathaway influence in my singing of that song.  I think we brought even more passion to it.  I’m a trained Shakespearian actor so I need to have a special focus on the lyrics in my songs.  With the song by Amy, well, it’s heart wrenching. I can’t imagine what kind of pain she was going through when she wrote it.  It has that feeling of someone who’s ‘lost’ and I well-up nearly every time I sing the song…”


The process of selecting material for LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET began with Frank collaborating with A&R veteran Mitchell Cohen with whom he worked on his critically-acclaimed 2015 debut album, “The Real Me.”  Says Frank, “I call Mitchell a walking encyclopedia of music!  He sent me over a hundred songs: I was looking for material that spoke to me on every level – musically, emotionally and from a storytelling standpoint.  We finally got down to eleven songs and then my producer Jay Newland (a 10-time Grammy winner known for his work with Norah Jones, Gregory Porter and Ayo among others) suggested “Rainy Night In Georgia” –  and bing!  We knew that was the last song to record and it’s become one of my absolute favorites on the album: I really analysed it before I sang it.  The biggest challenge was to put my own stamp on it because there are so many great versions. I wanted to bring out a deeper meaning: I made a whole story in my head before I sang it…and I thought about the loneliness of someone wandering with no place to go, thinking about the woman he loves…”


LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET opens with Frank’s melancholy-filled, deliberately sparse reinterpretation of “How Can I Be Sure,” a 1967 hit for The Young Rascals, recorded like the rest of the album “extremely stripped down,” notes the singer. “I wanted even more of a ‘live’ sound than I had on my first record so that it would be more like the sound when I perform in concert.  I recorded looking out at the musicians and almost every track is one solid take which creates a continuity and an emotional string which runs throughout the album and that’s what I want people to hear.”


Cut with a group of ‘A’ musicians who often record together (handpicked by producer Newland) that includes keyboardist and arranger Glenn Patscha (who has worked with Roger Waters, Marc Cohn, Bettye Lavette, Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson among others); guitarist Sherrod Barnes (who’s toured with Roberta Flack and Whitney Houston); drummer Dan Rieser (Marcy Playground, Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones); saxophonist Andy Snitzer (Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones); and bassist Zev Katz (who’s played for dozens of artists including Jeff Beck, Carole King, Lady Gaga and James Taylor), LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET includes number of standout performances by Shiner such as the title track, a propulsive Bill Withers song (recorded for his second album in 1972): “The rhythm is spectacular and you can’t listen to it without bopping in your seat!  It spoke to the whole ‘feel’ of the album and like every single song we selected, it has a beginning, middle and an end.  I want to take the listener from A-Z through the story…”


Shiner’s own story as a performer (and in recent years as a recording artist) is atypical: after nearly two decades away from working as an entertainer – “I paid my dues, I fulfilled responsibility as a father, husband, a friend, as a business person and put everything on back burner” – Frank returned to singing following his wife Suzanne’s battle with cancer in 2009.  A year later, she encouraged him to sing one night at a local open mic night and the audience reaction – along with that of the bandleader who followed Frank out to the parking lot to almost beg him to become a vocalist with his orchestra – led Shiner back to performing on a regular basis.


Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, growing up in Mountain Top (and from the age of ten, working side-by-side with his late father Francis in the family-owned bakery), Frank’s love for music and theatre first found expression when he was cast in the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, “I finally felt at home when I stood on that stage and heard the audience reaction and felt that energy, I said, ‘ok this is what I want to do.’” In college, Frank briefly began studying law before switching to acting, training in classics by Shakespeare and Moliere and moving to New York, where he would go on to appear in over sixty theatre and television productions and meet “the love of my life” Suzanne, who he married within two years after arriving in New York.



“There were never any regrets,” says Frank of his time away from singing and acting and in 2014, with the release of “The Real Me,” produced by award-winner Gary Katz, Frank reignited on record the passion for music he had never lost personally.  Dipping into the catalogs of a diverse range of artists including Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Roxy Music, Paul Simon and Dr. John.  “Feels Like Home,” a Randy Newman reinterpretation, gained considerable airplay in and around the New York area as the premier single from the album (distributed by Universal Music Group) as did “Driving Home For Christmas,” a holiday evergreen written by British singer-songwriter Chris Rea, issued ahead of his debut CD in December 2013, with proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in honor of his late father.


Out in October 2016, Frank’s potent reading of another yuletide classic, “Please Come Home For Christmas,” is a prelude to the March 2017 release of LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET, an album that showcases Frank’s artistry as an interpreter of timeless material delivered with heart and from the soul. “I like to think I stayed true to every one of the songs on the album.  Each one has a deep meaning on multiple levels.  Take for example, “She’s Gone,” which was originally recorded by Hall & Oates and done by Tavares and Lou Rawls. It’s a cool rhythmic song yet people don’t focus on what the song is saying.  I think Lou’s version came closest to relaying the pain in the lyric…what it’s like for the guy having the woman out of his life.  Then there’s “Guilty,” a great bluesy song by Randy Newman which is about a guy who’s made a lot of bad decisions and nothing he does turns out right.”


While Frank relishes material written by classic tunesmiths such as Doc Pomus (whose “There is Always One More Time,” a song recorded previously by Johnny Adams is given a bluesy, horn-laced workout), he delves into the Justin Timberlake catalog for “Drink You Away,” offering a slower version that combines elements of soul, rock and blues. “I’m a fan. I think Justin is extremely talented.  In my recording, I went vocally ‘over the top’ with it…and I had so much fun with it.  The joke is…I am so much not a drinker!  As an actor however, I understand someone who is trying to drink someone away and I certainly know people who have.  Live, when I perform it, I think this is going to be the highlight of my show!”


Visiting a tried-and-tested soul classic, Frank takes “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” the Hayes & Porter song first cut by famed duo Sam & Dave, and brings an intimate flavor to it. “I did it as a duet with (award-winning vocalist) Leslie Mendelson – which has been done before by Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt. Like everything else on the album, it was done live in the studio – and literally, Leslie and I sang looking at each other, picking up on each other’s tones, mirroring each other’s riffs. It was wonderful.”  Mendelson also joins Frank to provide background vocals for “I Will Be There,” a Van Morrison song “that has a New Orleans kind of flavor.  It’s almost like a ‘Stand By Me’ kind of tune and it reflects how I live my life, as a guy who’s loyal to family and friends.” With “Shine On Through,” Frank pays a rousing homage to Sir Elton John, often considered a pioneer in the world of blue-eyed soul. “It builds into a gospel



song and I can see myself having audience participation when we do the song live, lifting people up…”


That last sentiment is very much at the core of Frank Shiner’s approach to his work as an artist and indeed in life: “After people heard my last album, I got letters and comments from people who knew the story of how I got back into performing sharing how they were inspired to get back to teaching, writing and music, how they have gone back to those things in their later years. If I can be a motivation for other people, what more could I possibly want?”


Asked about how LONELY TOWN, LONELY STREET fits into his career objectives, Frank Shiner smiles: “I don’t think I have a ‘career objective’ as such.  I’m loving every second of what I’m doing now. I just want to do more of this…performing and recording, and if this album goes somewhere, well, that’s the cherry on top of the sundae…but I’ve already got the sundae!  The greatest compliment I get when I perform is when audience members tell me they can see the total bliss and total joy I have onstage and how I made it fun for them too.  The minute I lose that, it’s time to stop.”  With the release of an album made with love and delivered with true authenticity and passion, that won’t be anytime soon.

Rick Faugno

Rick was recently seen Off-Broadway in the Icelandic rock musical 'Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarson Furniture Painter' and with the New York Philharmonic in 'Show Boat' at Lincoln Center, to be aired next year on PBS. Also recently starred in 'Fingers & Toes' at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Rick was the original Frankie Valli in the Las Vegas production of 'Jersey Boys' for three-and-a-half years, receiving the award for Best Singer. Also in Las Vegas, he created and starred in three, one-man shows, winning the award for Best Lounge Act.


Other Broadway credits include: 'Fosse', 'Wonderful Town', 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' and as a child actor: 'The Will Rogers Follies and 'Conversations With My Father.' Film/TV: Best Actor Orlando Film Festival for 'Virgin Alexander', featured in the 'A Chorus Line' documentary 'Every Little Step', appeared as Frankie Valli on The Tony Awards and America's Got Talent. Guest starred on 'The Newsroom' and 'Conan O'Brien.'

​On December 29th, Rick will begin rehearsals for the Broadway revival of 'On The 20th Century', at the American Airlines Theater. Previews begin on February 12th and the official opening is on March 12th. Come out and see him sing and dance with Kristen Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, Mark-Linn Baker, Mary-Louise Wilson, Andy Karl and more!

Jen Fulwiler


Jen Fulwiler is a standup comic, bestselling author, and mom of six who is currently touring the country with her Minivan Fabulous standup comedy tour. She was the host of the daily talk radio show The Jen Fulwiler Show on the national SiriusXM network, and when she left to launch her own podcast, This Is Jen, it debuted in the iTunes Comedy Top 10. She has been featured on the Today Show and CNN, and her viral social media sketches have racked up millions of views. Her standup comedy special, The Naughty Corner, is out now on Amazon.

Daisy Jopling

Classical/rock violinist Daisy Jopling was born in London, and now lives in NY. She has toured the world with her own band, the “Daisy Jopling Band” and with the creative string trio “Triology.” She has recorded 9 CDS, 2 with BMG RCA Victor. Her latest album “Who’s Who” was released worldwide on September 10, 2019. Produced by Felipe Souza with Tea 4 2 Productions, this album consists of original violin arrangements of great songs by The Who.

Her Solo work has included playing a concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 14, playing twice before 30,000 people at the opening of the Vienna Festival, touring with her band to 53 stunning concert halls in China, creating “Illuminance” on Bannerman Island, NY which aired on PBS in 2021 and 2022, and performing her own “Awakening” Concert at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in 2017.

In June 2021 Daisy premiered a new show called “Transcendence”, directed by iconic Olympic Ceremony creator Daniel Flannery, based on African American author Sarah Bracey White’s memoir “Primary Lessons”. She is currently working on a concert with her band at the Great Pyramids in Egypt on November 4, 2022.

Daisy has collaborated with superstars worldwide, including Bobby McFerrin and Rob Evan from the US, Hollywood’s Hans Zimmer, India’s Shubha Mudgal, Cuba’s Omara Portuondo, Africa’s Oliver Mtukutsi, Austria’s Joe Zawinul, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Julian Rachlin, The Netherland’s Janine Jansen, Russia’s Boris Grebenshikov and London’s Tony Award Winning director Tom Morris.

Daisy has composed music for various ensembles which has been performed in major concert halls throughout the world, and for the last 11 years she has performed her own shows “The String Pulse Experience” and “Awakening” for her Band, orchestra, solo singers, dancers, and youth choir, enhanced by custom made lighting design and projections. Both shows give opportunities to young instrumentalists, singers and dancers to perform on great stages alongside world class musicians. “Music Magic: The String Pulse Experience” documentary film by Diana C. Frank has aired on Mountain Lake PBS.

Daisy is proudly signed to Tribeca Records:

Henry Hey

Henry has an innate curiosity and unique ability to bring multiple musical influences together. This is probably because everything from the Beatles to Bach to Count Basie to the sound of Henry’s own father playing various musical instruments could be heard at any time in his Midwest childhood home.

One famously curious artist, David Bowie, identified with this spirit in Henry during the making of The Next Day, on which Henry played piano and keyboards. Bowie then chose him as arranger and musical director to help reimagine his classic songs and to shape new ones, creating the sound for what would be Bowie’s final work, Lazarus.

Henry immerses himself in original projects and creative collaborations expressing his own voice. These works embody his skills as a musical catalyst in every way, from composing, songwriting, and arranging to sound creation, production, and performance. His instrumental group, FORQ, is currently recording and touring worldwide. Other collaborations include the critically acclaimed quartet, Rudder, and Australian synth-pop sensation, Empire of the Sun.

Legendary producer Phil Ramone felt Henry was essential to the evolution of George Michael’s project Symphonica, both as an arranger and pianist. Michael felt at ease working with Henry and the two enjoyed a successful relationship as Henry went on to be musical director for both the album recording and extensive arena touring. Prior to this, Henry was the musical director and pianist with Rod Stewart and the Great American Songbook. Henry not only led the band on international tours and recorded on several of the songbook albums, but also joined Stewart on many network television appearances.

Henry is active in the world of film, television, and video games as a composer and orchestrator. His work can be heard in films such as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Dumb and Dumber To, and many others. Additionally, Henry appears as piano and keyboard player on film soundtracks such as Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 8, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The 100 Foot Journey, Zoolander 2, The Last Mimzy, and Two Weeks Notice. (IMDB)

Henry has recorded and toured with diverse artists such as Ariana Grande, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Vanessa Williams, Walter Becker, PM Dawn, Dionne Warwick, Sanne Salomonsen, Chris Barron, Harry Belafonte, Christopher Cross, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Nikka Costa. Henry has also worked with seminal producers such as Tony Visconti, Richard Perry, Steve Tyrell, Jack Douglas, Kevin Killen, and Frank Filipetti.

Henry’s unique sound can be heard in the world of jazz and improvised music with such luminaries as Donny McCaslin, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Cassandra Wilson, Theo Bleckman, Bill Evans, Till Bronner, Alex Sipiagin, Joe Locke, Bill Bruford, Wayne Krantz, Seamus Blake, Chris Botti, and more. (ALLMUSIC)

Henry’s other passion is sailing. When not working in music he can be found happily aboard a sloop in the waters off Long Island.

The Huntertones Horns

The Huntertones Horns bring people together around the globe with fun, imaginative and fearless music. Their high energy, horn-driven sound features genre bending composition and unconventional covers. Every show is a social experience celebrating the joy of music. The band formed in Columbus, Ohio and is now based in Brooklyn, NY. They’ve performed in over 25 countries world wide and continue to tour the US and abroad.

The C3U Choir

The C3U Choir comes from Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. where Pastor Dr. A.R. Bernard presides, with over 30,000 members. The C3U Choir, under the leadership of Sara Gordon is composed of youth and young adult leaders who truly love the Lord and continue to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ both locally and abroad. They minister weekly to those who attend their C3U Service, which empowers young people to embrace the values of faith, family, education, and community and to embody the core purposes of worship, community, maturity, leadership, and mission!