If an event that encompasses the songs of the yuletide season and the spirit of giving sounds just the thing for Christmas, you’re not alone in that assessment.
The Sounds of Christmas, the annual musical show in support of KidsAbility, is an idea that first came to director and producer Nicole Guse as a way of giving back to the organization that helped her son Joshua from an early age. KidsAbility plays a special role in Guse’s life as her son once attended for speech and occupational therapy from the time he was 18 months old until he was 5.
“I wanted to do something as a way to payback and give back to KidsAbility for all the help we have gotten from them. I don’t have a lot of money that I can give, but I do have talent and time,” she explained of the event’s origin.
Now the performance is heading into its seventh year as a fundraiser that gives all proceeds from the show back to KidsAbility, which supports children with special needs.
This year is extra important one for the charitable organization given the cuts in government funding, Guse notes.
“Shows like this are very important because it helps to recoup some of that money they have lost from their cutbacks.”
A cast of 29 members of all ages come together on stage to dance, sing, and play instruments to all the beloved songs of the Christmas holidays. In addition, each year Guse switches up the show by adding new songs – this time out, about two-thirds of the show is brand new she exclaims.
“There are certain numbers that we always keep in because they’re staples, but then I always change it up so we have new songs for people to hear and see.”
Singer and dancer Rebecca Perry of St. Jacobs is taking part in the performance for the seventh time, having started when she was nearly 10 years old. Now Perry will be joining many other returning performers on stage, making the experience even more appealing.
“The cast becomes sort of a family so everybody is close to each other,” said Perry, who, along with singing, also plays the ukulele, one of the many instruments that can be heard throughout the night.
There is also a four-piece professional band that accompanies the performers on stage, made up of Jim Clayton (piano), Steve Hogg (bass), Sean Habermehl (drums), and Fred Hale of Heidelberg who plays guitar. Joining the musicians are seven professional adults who sing and dance on stage including Guse herself. Among them are also 17 young cast members who make up the rest of the performers.
The audience can expect a variety of music styles, says Guse, from fun music, serious music, and even songs that people might have not heard before.
“It’s a real family-style musical variety show. We try to hit something for everyone.”
A chance to listen to some of your favourite Christmas tunes is only one of the perks to seeing local performers and musicians in action all while giving back to a local cause. “It’s a way for the community to come together to celebrate the season but also to give back to the community,” said Guse.
To date the show has been able to raise some $126,000 over the past six years for KidsAbility, which feels amazing, said Guse.
“Every year that I go in with the cheque from Sounds of Christmas I feel like Santa Claus, and that’s a wonderful feeling to be able to give back to these people who have helped us so much and helped my son.”
It is important for Guse to not only give back but to teach her kids and those performing the importance of contributing to the community.
“It’s different than just giving a donation – it’s not as personal as doing something that you really enjoy and being able to give back in that way,” said Perry of how it feels to help other kids at the organization.
The Sounds of Christmas will put on seven shows this year starting tomorrow (Friday) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church, 245 Lexington Rd., Waterloo. Additional shows will run on November 23 at 2 p.m. and then next weekend from November 28-30, with shows at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for those under the age of 18. Tickets can be bought online, by calling the box office at 519-502-8390, or in person at the KidsAbility office in Waterloo.