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Focused on producing the classic sound at Christmastime

Aiden Wenderoth, plays the trumpet at a rehearsal for Breslau, Bloomingdale, Maryhill Community Band’s Christmas Concert on December 17 at Breslau Mennonite Church. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Aiden Wenderoth, plays the trumpet at a rehearsal for Breslau, Bloomingdale, Maryhill Community Band’s Christmas Concert on December 17 at Breslau Mennonite Church. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
There are Christmas carols, adapted pop songs and top holiday hits in every store and on every station – what can seem like a repetitive, albeit endless stream of seasonal tunes.

For those involved in the Breslau, Bloomingdale, Maryhill Community Band, however, there’s nothing like the classics, performed in a traditional manner, to make the season bright.

“You could play White Christmas, for example, and it can be arranged just very, very simply so almost any band can play it or it can be arranged with much more harmony,” said band founder Keith Hampton.

After a lifetime of loving and staying true to the classics (he doesn’t hold with jazz or rock), Hampton started the project with wife Doreen and conductor Bryon Hagedorn.

The small Christmas concert, usually made up of families and friends in the community, has become a welcome tradition since the band’s inception in 1975, teaching players aged 8 to 85. They’d go younger, but “you have to have all of your permanent teeth to play,” laughed Hampton.

Among the usual cornucopia of Christmas songs circulating this time of year, what do the classics bring to audiences?

“Everybody loves the old Christmas pieces,” he said.

“I’ve been involved with classical music my whole life. I sang on a choir which is now the The Grand Philharmonic Choir for 15, 16 years, so that’s the kind of music for me, personally. But I think people appreciate [the Christmas songs] played in a way they can recognize.”

Songs like O Holy Night “sung by a good tenor singer” still bring some emotion to this music enthusiast. Likewise for music from Handel’s Messiah, which brings Hampton back to his days in the church choir.

Today, he looks back at years of contributing to kids’ learning experiences through music, providing them – and adult players, as well – another aspect of a well-rounded education.

“We’re keeping kids off the street, hopefully, and, you know, some of our kids have gone on to be surgeons and some professional musicians. I get a little satisfaction out of that.”

The free Christmas concert at Breslau Mennonite Church (7 Menno St.), will give everyone a chance to show off their talents, whether newfound or cultivated over several years with the band.

“We’ve been working very hard since September and we’re having a lot of fun,” Hagedorn said during Tuesday night’s practice.

In addition to numerous holiday favourites, the senior band will perform a medley of Christmas pieces arranged by the Canadian Brass, a holiday lineup of one of the world’s best brass quintets, founded by Charles Daellenbach and Gene Watts in 1970.

Joining the performance will be the lulling voice of Gabriella Currie, director at Guelph Youth Music Centre, in a guest appearance to narrate The Night Before Christmas to musical accompaniment.

“She narrates and the band plays a little snippet – the music we play emphasizes what she is saying. That’s tricky because you really have to watch the conductor,” Hampton said.

The beginner bands will play simple arrangements of songs while the senior band will step it up with more complex compositions of our holiday favourites.

“There’s nothing like live music, and there’s that contact that the groups have with the audience that makes it special. Instead of hearing music over a radio where you don’t see anybody perform. It’s that contact which is special,” said Hagedorn.

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