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BIG ARTS band, chorus to host holiday concerts

By Staff | Dec 3, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED BIG ARTS Community Chorus with Director Ellen Whitten.

The grand opening of BIG ARTS’ new home might still be over a month away, but that’s not stopping them from spreading the holiday cheer. The BIG ARTS Community Band and Chorus, sponsored this year by the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, will hold their annual holiday concerts at the Sanibel Community Church while construction continues on the new performance hall and facility.

The BIG ARTS Community Chorus concert kicks off the holiday festivities on Dec. 10, and the celebration continues the following week with the BIG ARTS Community Band on Dec. 16.

The band and chorus are made up of members of the local community who come together to share their love of music. Members come from all over Southwest Florida to Sanibel to practice from October through March. While many are islanders, plenty of others come from Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, North Fort Myers and Pine Island. For the men and women who make up the band and chorus, the Holiday Concerts are a labor of love and also their first performance of the season.

“My favorite part of the holiday concert has got to be singing that first number on the program. After many rehearsals, we finally get to share our music with an audience. It’s magical, it’s invigorating and very exciting to come together as one voice with one purpose to share our love of singing,” Chorus Director Ellen Whitten said.

The concerts feature a mix of traditional and contemporary holiday favorites. Putting the shows on is no small feat. Whitten and Band Director Mike Lamade, who is in his seventh year as director, put in a lot of work behind the scenes throughout the summer and fall.

PHOTO PROVIDED BIG ARTS Community Band Director Mike Lamade.

“The musical selections are chosen by me and my Associate Conductor, August Thoma, based on our combined experience of many years exploring concert band offerings,” he said.

Whitten has a similar process.

“The songs for the concert are chosen after many, many hours of perusing music, listening to recordings, attending concerts, taking choral workshops and getting input from singers in the chorus,” she said.

The performers aren’t the only ones who get to take part in the fun. Both concerts feature a sing-a-long portion that gets the audience in the holiday spirit. These sing-a-longs aren’t just fan favorites, but also enjoyed by the directors, as well.

“I love getting the audience involved with the Holiday Favorites sing-a-long. They love to take part in the program, ” Lamade said. “I think a live performance of our concert band made up of friends and neighbors playing traditional holiday melodies kick-starts the holiday season and gets everyone in the mood.”

The joy of getting concert goers in the holiday spirit is one shared by Whitten.

“I think the holiday concert gives everyone in the community an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of the season – from Christmas, to Hanukkah, to carols from around the world, to holiday music from Broadway. There is something for everyone. What a great way to bring people together,” she said.

Tickets can be purchased at www.BIGARTS.org or through the box office at 239-395-0900.

Both concerts are free to children and students.

The Sanibel Community Church is at 1740 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.