Fresh off completing a new album, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Elmira native Jeff Poolton is set to host the ninth annual Songs of the Season concert in support of the KidsAbility Centre for Child Development.The singer-songwriter originally spearheaded the event to raise funds for the Women’s Crisis Centre of Waterloo Region.
“It was partly inspired by the fact that I had a song called “The Mirror” that was written for victims of domestic violence,” Poolton explained. “I wanted to use that song as a kind of centerpiece for the concert to raise awareness for that issue. I also realized that people might not be willing to come out to a concert full of songs that they don’t know, but they might be more eager to check out a Christmas concert with one or two songs that are new. So for five years we held the concert with the Women’s Crisis Centre as the charity of choice and we raised approximately $1,000 per year.”
He decided to shift the concert’s focus after writing a song called “Miracle of Love,” for his 2013 debut record, “Welcome to My World.”
“It is very much inspired by parents of kids growing up with disabilities, like myself,” Poolton said. “I wanted to write something for my parents, and I realized that it wasn’t just about my parents; it is about all parents that are raising kids with special needs. And so I talked to KidsAbility and made the switch to their organization, while also changing the original song to “Miracle of Love.”
Born with cerebral palsy, Poolton understands the importance of the work KidsAbility does in bringing rehabilitation services to developmental disabilities, medical syndromes and disorders, and communication difficulties.
“When I went through a number of surgeries in my life, they were there to help with physiotherapy afterwards,” he said.
So far, the Songs of the Season shows have continued to bring in about $1,000 each year, with an average of some 100 patrons in attendance.
“As a result of Jeff receiving the help when he needed it, he has been able to transition into the next stage of his life, which is as a successful adult member of our community, who is now giving back to other communities,” said Dayna Giorgio, communications officer for KidsAbility.
“Over the years, Jeff has really transitioned from receiving our services to someone who has become a volunteer, and a very strong advocate for children who are just beginning their journey,” she added.
“KidAbility offers a sense of confidence and hope that says, ‘You know what? No matter how difficult the time you’re going through is, there’s a way through this, and you will carry on and succeed,’” Poolton said. “Your family and friends complete that circle of hope.”
This year’s event will spotlight Poolton’s latest work, “The Gifts of Christmas.”
“What I really wanted to do with this album was to combine my love of classical music with my love of pop music,” Poolton said. “Both my parents, and my dad especially, are huge Christmas music fans, and he has been asking me for many, many years to do a Christmas album. And in appreciation of all the support they have given me and of the voice training they put me through as I was growing up, I decided that I would try to put a Christmas album together.”
Poolton started recording the album with producer Ron Roy in February, looking to craft covers of holiday classics that have “been done so many times before, in a fresh new way.”
“I didn’t have a specific vision when I first went into the studio,” he said. “I decided to go in and do a couple songs to see how they would turn out. One of my primary influences is world music, so you will hear on the album there are Middle Eastern influences, Spanish flamenco type influences, stuff that is on the rock side and others that are more classical. It really is, I feel, quite a diverse project.”
He added, “The end product surprised all of us. It surprised me, it surprised Ron, and it surprised my wife and son as well. I am very, very proud of it.”
From “Do You Hear What I Hear?” to “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Silent Night,” the album is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
The record can be purchased on Amazon.com, iTunes and cdbaby.com.
Doors open for the Songs of the Season concert Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the All Saints Anglican Church at 400 Northfield Dr. in Waterloo. Admission is free and donations to KidsAbility will be gratefully accepted.