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Christmas is definitely a spectacle in this show

This year’s edition of the symphony’s Yuletide Spectacular includes the gospel sounds of the Waterloo Region Mass Choir

Requiring the efforts of several performing groups and a host of singers, dancers and musicians, the Yuletide Spectacular Christmas show offers up everything short of the kitchen sink – and there just might be one of those somewhere – to fuel the Christmas spirit. It’s on stage this weekend at the Centre In The Square.

Part of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Pops Series, the show includes performances by Grand Philharmonic Choir and Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir and the Contemporary School of Dance. Led by Canadian conductor Tania Miller, the show also includes a performance of the story of The Nutcracker with narrator/actors and KWS audience favourites Mike Nadajewski and Glynis Ranney. Accompanying the story together with the orchestra are projected images by Canadian illustrator Rajka Kupesic.

New to the mix this year is the Waterloo Region Mass Choir, who’ll be performing holiday gospel favourites. The group itself is in fact new, having been formed just over a year ago by artistic director Darren Hamilton.

When he and his wife moved to Kitchener from the GTA two years ago, they noticed there was no gospel choir in the area.

“There was a lack of presence of gospel music,” he said.

Given that he was new to the area, he considered it something of a “leap of faith” when he decided he’d attempt to fill the void. He didn’t know what to expect, but found there was a strong response to the idea.

“We put out some audition calls, and people came,” he said of the process that led to the Waterloo Region Mass Choir’s launch in October of 2018. “We heard from people that they’d been praying and hoping for something like this for a while.”

Today, the multicultural and multigenerational group has some 25 members, mostly singers, with a small rhythm section.

“It’s always a joy to bring together people from different paths,” said Hamilton, noting members are united by the music.

Many came to the choir with experience from their own churches.

“There aren’t a lot of church choirs in the region,” he said, noting many churches have opted for small vocal ensembles.

“For me, there’s a need to resurrect the church choirs. There are so many benefits of getting involved that way,” said Hamilton, a high school music teacher who is currently working on a PhD in music education at the University of Toronto.

For this weekend’s Yuletide Spectacular, the Waterloo Region Mass Choir will be presenting some classic gospel Christmas songs such as ‘Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child’ and ‘The Night that Jesus was Born,’ along with a “some surprises.”

It marks the group’s first collaboration with KWS.

“The symphony was looking to get a gospel choir involved in their show this year. We were referred to them, and they reached out to us,” said Hamilton.

“We’ve been preparing for a number of months, and the choir is very excited.”

The audience can expect the full gospel choir experience, complete with hand-clapping, foot-stomping and, of course, harmonious voices raised in song.

Along with the gospel performance, the large ensemble of performers for the Yuletide Spectacular will offer up plenty of familiar Christmas tunes and stories, even for those venturing out for the first time to see a symphony show. The audience, too, will join in during the sing-along portion of the evening.

The whole show will roll out under the baton of Tania Miller, who appeared as a guest conductor in Canada, the United States and Europe.

 “This is a special concert for the whole family, bringing together some of the best choirs, dancers, and soloists of the community to join with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony,” said Miller. “It’s an entertaining and warm-hearted musical tour de force that celebrates the spirit of Christmas through the beauty of music.”

The Yuletide Spectacular runs December 13 at 8 p.m., December 14 at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and December 15 at 2:30 p.m. at the Centre In The Square in Kitchener. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 519-745-4711 or 888-745-4717.

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