125 million people come from all over the world to see Christmas in New York City! It is a magical place during the holidays. It has become a present to myself over the last few years and I start thinking about what to do months ahead. This year it started in March with the announcement of Billy Joel’s residency show at Madison Square Garden for December. I photographed Billy earlier this year in Tampa and it was a fabulous show. I knew the Christmastime show would be special.
Checking in to the hotel, it was time to start the pilgrimage. It was a clear but cold day so I headed straight for Rockafeller Center with the masses to see the most famous Christmas tree of all! 2016’s tree is a 90 year old, 94 foot Norway spruce with 50,000 lights and the 550 pound Swarovski crystal star at the top! It is a crazy fun scene with thousands taking selfies with the tree and strangers asking each other to take pictures. Down below the tree, people are skating on the sparkling ice rink. Across the street Saks 5th Avenue’s light and music show starts every 10 minutes while the crowd stops to watch in awe at the lights dancing across the building.
I walked over to the honored St. Patrick’s Cathedral open to the public every day. Hundreds are walking through, taking photos and sitting to rest, yet noise is at a minimum. Candle lighting and prayer as well as regular mass is all part of the rituals going on. The church is a haven for everyone. It is the calm in the storm of the city around it.
Heading uptown to the Beacon Theatre for hitmaker Mariah Carey’s sold out 3rd Annual Christmas show. A 90 minute show of mainly Christmas tunes along with a couple of big hits for the diehard fans of which were in major attendance in the front rows holding signs and passing notes to the singer. A family friendly show, there are children dancing and singing in the show. Mariah brought her own children on stage with Santa. A holiday decorated stage and graphics, Carey’s voice is in top form especially on “O Holy Night” on which she used her famous high register. There is a choir and dancers to entertain while Ms. Carey makes costume changes. The finale is Mariah’s big hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” complete with snow and confetti. A feel good Christmas show!
Looking out my hotel window the next morning there is snow! It is an inside day so I tried for a couple of Broadway show lotteries for cheap tickets to Hamilton and Kinky Boots. I highly suggest you give these a try when in NYC. I didn’t win this time, but I have won in the past. A great way to see a show on a budget. So I opted for the tour of Madison Square Garden which turned out to be a great choice. Our guide was informative and you are taken places that you would never normally see in the iconic Garden. A view from the top in a luxury suite, locker room of the Knicks and displays of events over the years like “The Fight of the Century” with Ali & Frazier and Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK. They took us to the concert floor where the Billy Joel show was being set up for the evening’s show. The tour lasts around an hour and is worth every penny which is $26.00.
Macy’s, the World’s Largest store is across the street from the Garden in Herald Square, so I made that the next stop. The crowds were thick with tourists viewing the decorations and store windows and shoppers for the big one day sale! I chose to hide out and rest in Starbucks on the 3rd floor which was a popular idea, a busy hub for snacking and phone checking. After leaving Macy’s and getting a decent meal, I headed back to the Garden for the Joel sold out show.
Since I had photo cred for this show, I go to a special entrance and am taken to the side floor with several other photographers. We are allowed to shoot the first two songs which were “Movin’ Out” and “The Entertainer”. Billy Joel IS New York and the crowd loves him. From the casual tourist to the diehard New Yorker, this is one big sing-along with the crowd on their feet dancing everywhere! Joel has such a huge body of work and between the hits were Christmas songs with Billy donning a Santa hat! Tinkling the ivories with bits of well known songs teasing the crowd, Joel kept starting the fire! Playing over 2 ½ hours with a six song encore, they brought down the house! His band is soooo great. Joel has played Madison Square more than any other artist at 81 times and keeps going into 2017 with his monthly residency selling out, he is not leaving anytime soon and New York is so lucky for that.
Taking the concert goer packed train back to my hotel, I am feeling totally exhausted from this whirlwind. I was leaving with memories and a full heart, my gift from New York City’s Christmas!
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock The Lens Photography