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Maria Howell’s at ‘Home for the Holidays’ with new jazz album
Gastonia native previews collaboration at Middle C
Published Thursday, December 5, 2019 1:04 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Gastonia native Maria Howell collaborated with pianist/arranger Noel Freidline on the holiday album “Merry Christmas, My Dear.”

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It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

Vocalist Maria Howell and pianist/arranger Noel Freidline dazzled the audience at their VIP preview of their holiday album “Merry Christmas, My Dear” last week at Middle C Jazz Club. The album is currently out, and attendees of Charlotte’s Thanksgiving Day parade caught a glimpse of their upcoming performance at McGlohon Theater on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

“The show is called ‘Home for the Holidays’ because home is such a special thing to Maria and I,” Freidline said. “Maria is from Gastonia, and I’m from this little, bitty town in Kansas … home was that place that always felt safe, was always comfortable. Home was that place if life came down the pike and you didn’t know what to do, you could go home.”

For Howell, an actress, singer and voiceover talent, creating a Christmas album felt like destiny. When drummer/composer Alfred Sergel IV suggested making one, Howell did not have to think twice.

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“Christmas, the why for me, I have to give more credit to Al, because Al is such a good prompter in our group,” she said. “He just throws these ideas out at us, and I’m like, ‘like let’s do that!’ It’s good to have someone in the group who does that.”

Christmas is an emotional time for Howell, as both of her parents are no longer living. While the idea of embarking on a holiday album was sensitive, she knew she had to do it.
“As soon as he said it, I got misty-eyed because Christmas is a real, real special time,” Howell said. “My parents are no longer here on this side of the earth. My siblings and I would get together every holiday, and Christmas was always a special time.”

Howell recalled how her father was an only child and his desire for a big family to spread Christmas cheer throughout the house.

“He wanted to have a lot of kids, so that he could have big Christmases,” Howell said through tears. “He made them the biggest, the best events of the year for us. I will never forget all those pink bicycles—those six kids [and] six pink bicycles in the house. Just the whole idea of the emotion of Christmas and what it does for me, it was a no-brainer to want to do this.”

Tickets start at $25.

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