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Lending a hand … and all that jazz

The Big Band Theory is ready to welcome Christmas with two evenings of jazzy holiday tunes, all to support a good cause.

Tonight and tomorrow night the 18-piece jazz orchestra hits The Registry Theatre stage for the Books for Kids Fundraiser. The shows support the Books for Kids literacy initiative which provides books to children in need in Waterloo Region.

Last year’s show sold out in two days for just one performance, so this year they’ve expanded the show to two nights.

The Big Band Theory musical director and saxophonist Robin Habermehl says it’s all about finding ways to give back to kids.

“Everything will be Christmas music and it’s to jump start the season and to get people thinking about donating money for books for kids,” Habermehl said.

The Big Band Theory was the brain child of Paul Ellingham, one of the band’s trombone players. He and Habermehl met in high school and since then Habermehl has taught all of Ellingham’s children saxophone, clarinet and flute.

Ellingham’s son, Taylor, played in the Jazz FM band for two years in Toronto and when he graduated high school, he discovered there was nowhere for him to play that kind of music anymore. He helped create the band, which is now in its fifth year.

The Registry Theatre in Kitchener welcomes The Big Band Theory for two shows Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. The 18-piece band will perform jazzy Christmas tunes. The shows act as a fundraiser for Books for Kids. [Submitted]

The band will be joined on stage by local professional singer, Randy Lyght.

Lyght has performed with The Platters, Rick Lazar and Paul Shaffer. For the last five years Randy has recorded three albums (Just In Time, A Return To Romance and Happy Holidays), produced by Rick Hutt at Cedartree Recording Studio. Currently Randy is recording a CD of all original music to be released in the spring of 2017.

“The band will play probably 20 tunes and then Randy will do four or five with the band, some with the rhythm section only and some with the big band,” Habermehl said.

He says the most classical song they’re doing is a Duke Ellington version of ‘The Nutcracker Suite.’ They’ll also perform modern versions of classics like ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells.’

“It runs from I would say swing era, like Duke Ellington to modern music. They call it yuletide swing, it’s not classical stuff,” Habermehl said.

Ryan Cassidy performs with the band at the 2015 Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival. [Submitted]
He and Ellingham chose the music for this year’s show earlier this fall and the group has been practicing their parts individually before coming together.

“They’re all top notch pro players, so we try to jam in three rehearsals if we can,” Habermehl said.

He encourages parents to bring their high school age children, since the show will finish fairly late at night.

Christmas is an especially busy time of year for these jazz musicians, but he says they make time for this event because they’re passionate about music. He says if they don’t keep it going then it will fade away, and the same goes for books.

“For me it’s about passing on the craft because I’m going to be 63 in two weeks and one of these days I’ll be dead and gone and I’ve got to leave something behind. That’s the way most of the guys feel about this Books for Kids charity concert. Anytime there’s a disaster the Mennonites come in and they can build another barn in a couple days. I think we all have to contribute the way we can.”

Big Band Theory plays two performances at The Registry Theatre, located at 122 Frederick St. in Kitchener on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. Performance times are 8 p.m. both nights and tickets are $25. The concert acts as a fundraiser for the Books For Kids literacy project. Tickets are available by calling 519-578-1570 or online at www.registrytheatre.com.

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