The pandemic can’t stop these talented Morgan Stanley employees, who are once again performing in our annual holiday concert for charity, albeit virtually this year.
Christine Bond has been involved in music since she was a child, everything from conducting a church choir at age 14 to providing vocals for a national TV ad from a global sportswear company. But this year will be a first for this Vice President in Wealth Management: Joining other Morgan Stanley employees from around the globe to put on a virtual holiday concert, with all the ticket proceeds going to charity.
For the past three years, Morgan Stanley has presented the event to a sold-out crowd at the legendary Apollo Theater in Manhattan and, says Bond, who will be performing for the second time this year, “It’s a whole lot of feel good.” Headlined by Carla Harris, who is not only a Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and Senior Client Advisor but also a professional gospel singer and songwriter to boot (her fourth gospel album, O This Is Christmas dropped in late November), the show has featured dozens of talented Morgan Stanley vocalists, along with The Mark Howell Singers and the Aspire Ensemble.
The evening benefits a number of children's hospitals, including the New-York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, one of the world’s top pediatric care centers, and is perhaps the most joyful and eagerly anticipated example of the firm’s commitment to its core value of Giving Back.
This year, due to COVID-19, the firm could not return to the Apollo; instead, it’s taking the show online: "Holidays From Harlem with Carla Harris and Friends," hosted once again by WNBC news anchor David Ushery, will stream to a global audience via the internet. Hundreds of employees from our global offices submitted auditions; 28 were selected to perform remotely in their (appropriately decorated) homes all over the world, from Tokyo to New York, where singer Shawn Bartels, an Executive Director in Global Sales and Marketing, sang as part of an ensemble Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means to Me, My Love."
"While it would have been easy to cancel this year's show since we could not physically invite everyone to the Apollo," says Harris. "We simply thought after this year we could all use a little merry, a little cheer and a lot of fun! We promise you an evening to remember and a fun way to bring in the holiday season."
Indeed, the excitement is as palpable as ever. “The sentiment behind why we're doing it is the same. And even though we are performing separately, we have that same energy and comradery we had before,” says Bond. “This may sound corny, but it really is magical.” The global-themed musical selections this year make it especially fun, she says. “I’m part of a group singing a song called ‘Hanukkah in Santa Monica.’ As an African American woman, I probably would not have had a chance to perform this selection otherwise. It is broadening my musical horizons for sure.”
For Archie Jobard, a technologist in our Mumbai office, the global casting call was too good to pass up. First and foremost, he couldn’t miss this chance to participate in something he had only been able to watch from afar. Plus, it offered a nice break from coding, given Jobard’s background as a performer, songwriter and music producer.
Even so, the performance proved challenging from Mumbai, where “the weather outside is frightful” takes on different connotations. “The AC was set at 25 degrees Celsius [77 Fahrenheit] here in my room, and I was still sweating because I had to wear a shirt and a jacket and it was super-hot outside that day,” Jobard notes. What’s more he says, “We were in the middle of delivering one of our biggest projects that was two years in the making” in his technology day job. Nevertheless, he managed to nail it, including an ensemble performance of “Let There be Peace on Earth.”
The lyrics to that number seem especially meaningful in a pandemic year, with plenty of other challenges, including the racial justice movement and political drama in the U.S. and elsewhere. All of that has given the concert itself special status—the show will be free for anyone who registers. Morgan Stanley will instead donate on behalf of the audience to even more children’s hospitals, not just around the country but around the world, as we close out 2020 and ring in the new year. Says Bond, who relishes the chance to spread some holiday cheer far and wide, with a little help from her laptop, “Now is a time when people need this more than ever.”