By Stacey Pastorella

A rousing ovation greeted Peter Nero on June 4 as he took the podium in the Morris Hall Auditorium to announce this year’s concert to benefit The Foundation of Morris Hall / St. Lawrence.

“This is the first time I haven’t played a note and gotten a standing ovation. So, I thank you,” Nero said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Peter Nero and the Philly Pops are scheduled to present the concert, called “The Best of Broadway,” on Saturday, Oct. 5. The event will take place at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton.

Nero said he is planning an evening of music from classic shows like Gypsy and Phantom of the Opera, in addition to more contemporary selections.

“There will be a wide variety. Which, by the way, is the essence of what I think should be pops, and that is something for everybody,” Nero said.

Guest musicians scheduled to perform are Christianne Noll, Gary Mauer and Debbie Gravitte.

This year’s show will be the 12th annual event. Over the years, the concert has raised more than $1 million for The Foundation of Morris Hall / St. Lawrence, Mercer County freeholder Pat Colavita said after the press conference. Last year’s event raised about $85,000 for the facility, he said.

Colavita is chairing the event, along with Nina Melker of Hopewell Valley Community Bank.

“It’s a nice event because it’s not just a fundraiser, but it’s a wonderful cultural event. The concert is second to none,” said Jane Millner, director of community relations and development at St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, after the press conference.

St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center is a non-profit physical rehabilitation hospital facility with 166 beds.

Morris Hall, which includes St. Mary’s Assisted Living and St. Joseph’s Skilled Nursing Center, will celebrate its 110th anniversary next year.

“There’s such a spirit of compassion and healing here, and that’s pretty much what drives me to be part of this,” Colavita said.

Nero expressed similar sentiments.

“This is my annual trek to St. Lawrence, and I always look forward to this because the feeling here is very warm,” Nero said. “I always say what a great organization this is.”

Nero, the founding music director of the Philly Pops, officially ended his tenure as the leader of the Pops in May. He plans to continue touring the country and performing as a pianist and guest conductor. After the press conference, Nero said he is interested in continuing to participate in the annual benefit concerts in the future.

The event also benefits Mercer County students. A portion of the money raised is used to fund assemblies with musicians from the Philly Pops in a few local schools each year. Colavita said that the program has made its way to every high school in the county over the years. Students also receive tickets to attend the concert. Traditionally, one student is chosen to serve as the guest conductor for a song during the show.

Colavita said that it’s a memorable experience for the students.

“They recognize the talent and the commitment, the genius of this man. I mean, they’re in awe,” he said. “It’s amazing how universal music is.”

Nero concluded his presentation by performing two selections on the piano. After the final note, the crowd showered the two-time Grammy award winner with another ovation. It was the kind of ovation to which Nero was more accustomed, and he once again expressed his gratitude.

Tickets for this year’s concert are on sale now. General admission tickets range from $35 to $90. Patron tickets are also available. That option includes premium seating and a post-concert champagne reception with Nero and the guest artists.