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Santa baby: Cami Bradley, Whitney Dean sweep into the Fox for the Spokane Symphony’s ‘Holiday Pops’

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 18, 2021

After nearly two years of coping with the coronavirus pandemic, songwriting duo the Sweeplings – Cami Bradley and Whitney Dean – are thrilled to be back onstage and, for the first time, with the Spokane Symphony.

“It doesn’t feel like there are words to say how special this is to me,” Bradley said, recalling her solo performance with the Spokane Symphony in last year’s virtual New Year’s Eve concert. “People don’t often get the opportunity to play with the kind of talent and prestige that you find in the Spokane Symphony – and we don’t take it lightly.”

Bradley and Dean started the Sweeplings not long after Bradley performed a cover of Cher’s “Believe” on “America’s Got Talent” in 2013. Dean’s wife, Bethany, heard Bradley’s voice on television and immediately knew the two would be creatively compatible.

“She saw me and ran upstairs to Dean like, ‘Hey, I found your duo partner!’ ” Bradley said. And since then, despite living on opposite sides of the country – Bradley in Spokane and Dean on the East Coast – they’ve proved her right. “We’ve been putting out new music every year since.”

Conducted by Morihiko Nakahara, the Spokane Symphony’s “Pops 1: Holiday Pops With the Sweeplings” concert is at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Sweeplings will be available to sign CDs after each show. For more information, visit spokanesymphony.org and call the box office at (509) 624-1200.

“This type of musical collaboration is rare,” Bradley said. “It’s easy to pass by big moments or big shows in the whirlwind of things happening right now, but we’re trying to look at this and feel this like a snapshot, to really keep it in our memory and enjoy each moment as it comes.”

Preparing for the holiday concert has been a lengthy but rewarding undertaking, Bradley said. “I feel like we’ve put more thought and time into this show than we have in any other show that we’ve ever done,” Bradley said.

Bradley and Dean have been recording Christmas music together for nearly eight years, but arranging their covers for orchestral accompaniment, that is, nearly 70 additional instruments, was a new challenge. Luckily, Spokane Symphony assistant principal second violin David Armstrong was on hand to make sure the process ran smoothly.

“David helped us pare our list down to the ones that he thought would be the best with the orchestra, and we just said thumbs up because, whatever they wanted to do, if they were willing to put the time into making them really special and unique, we were onboard,” Bradley said.

In addition to several orchestral classics, the program will include more than 10 of the Sweeplings’ Christmas covers newly arranged to include symphony accompaniment.

“What we do is a little bit more broken down,” Bradley said. “Taking classic versions and flipping them upside down – basically, we’re just putting all of those things together and making something that’s really different and unique and special for the night.

“And now adding the symphony layers – getting to work with some of the most talented people in the industry, the most beautiful instruments – it just doesn’t really get much better as a musician.”

Additionally, the “Holiday Pops’ ” Santa Claus, Michael Cantlon, who has been conducting the symphony in “Sleigh Ride” for more than 30 years, will feature his children’s book “Nym’s Sleigh Ride” via re-enactment of the story with actress Brittany Mendoza-Pena, one of Cantlon’s former students, as Nym.

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