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Legendary Pianist Noel Freidline and Acclaimed Vocalist, Maria Howell Take Center Stage at Middle C

Noel Freidline, Maria Howell, Alfred Sergel IV/Photo Credit: April Freidline

November 25, 2019–  Noel Freidline and Maria Howell performed ballads from their latest CD, Merry Christmas, My Dear at the charming Middle C Jazz Club [300 S Brevard St, Charlotte, NC 28202 ] led by celebrated drummer and composer, Alfred Sergel IV, with an intimate listening session for about 35 guest, ahead of their scheduled performance, Home For The Holidays at McGlohon Theater on December 4, 2019.

The light mixer included prominent figures from Charlotte, NC, like former Mayors Harvey B. Gantt and Jennifer Roberts, in addition to Tom Gabbard, CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts, just to name a few. 

During their mini concert, Maria entranced guest with airy vocals while Noel played selections on the piano from their collaborative, Merry Christmas, My Dear.

Both Nolen and Maria said that there is nothing like family, and that’s the reason they were enthused more than anything to do the project.

"Al [Sergel IV], I have to give more credit to Al because he's such a good prompter in our group, that just throws these ideas at us, and I'm like, "Yeah! Let's do that," exclaimed Maria about Al's suggestion to do the Christmas project. "It's good to have someone in the group that does that, and the ideas are very valid, but as soon as he said it, I got misty-eyed, because Christmas is a real, real, special time. My parents are no longer here, on this side of the earth, so my siblings and I get together every holiday because Christmas is the most special time," Maria began to trail off. She sobbed softly. Maria was awakened by happy and nostalgic memories about her dad, and her own upbringing... "The whole idea of the emotion of Christmas and what it does for me, is that it was a no-brainer to want to do this," she finished.

Their festive harmonies were lulled to enliven the atmosphere with jazz and blues through classic and effortless renditions of songs like “Merry Christmas, My Dear,” “My Favorite Things,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night.”

“It’s amazing how songs,” Noel remarked right before their final performance, “When you have a good piece of music, you can do anything to it. That’s actually the sign if a song is a real song or not. If you can put it into a different genre and it stands up, that’s a really good song,” he says. Noel continued to educate the audience about the interpretations of music before giving the floor to Maria who transformed her blithe vocals into an affective choral reminiscent to an old fashioned, Baptist, hymn.

Noel Freidline and Mary Howell worked together over 27-years. They’ve traveled the world abroad performing with remarkable correlation the many origins of music. They are a tough act to follow, their chemistry and robust performances are perpetually pleasing. 

Maria Howell:

Maria is a native of Gastonia, North Carolina. She graduated from Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Maria started out as a jazz vocalist. She marked her debut in the 1985 movie, Color Purple, as the little choir girl singing, “God is Trying to Tell You Something." Maria co-starred in other films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Daddy’s Little Girls, The Blind Side and What to Expect When Expecting. She’s appeared in dramedies Drop Dead Diva, Army Wives, The Game, Necessary Roughness, and The Vampire Diaries.   

Noel Freidline:

Noel graduated Magnum Cum Laud with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the University of Florida. He started his own group called the Noel Freidline Quintet. He’s recorded 8 CD’s, including his collaboration with Maria Howell in 2018 called Old Devil Moon. Noel performed at Jazz concerts around the world. He did a 3-year residence at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and performed for actor Julia Roberts surprise birthday party. 

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