Thursday, December 2, 2010

BIG ARTS presents variety of holiday programming

This December, BIG ARTS will continue the tradition of presenting quality holiday entertainment for Sanibel and Captiva residents and visitors. 

But this year, things will be just a little different. 

Though islanders can expect the 9th annual performance “Excerpts from the Nutcracker” by the Gulfshore Ballet, this year, the BIG ARTS Community Chorus and Band will be parting ways and performing their own separate holiday concerts on Dec. 9 and Dec. 14, respectively. 

The BIG ARTS Community Chorus and Band holiday concert has generated a lot of interest over the years, causing people to be turned away from Schein Hall due to lack of room. 

To accommodate the increased community support and interest in the holiday concert, this year, the two groups decided to each perform their own shows to allow more people to attend. 

Over the years, the BIG ARTS Community Chorus and Band has swelled not only in popularity, but in membership, and the directors of both groups say that it’s a true love for singing, playing instruments and of course, performing, that unites these vast and varied community groups. 

“We are truly and accurately the definition of a community chorus. We have a mix of singers — from former professional singers, to active and retired

members of the Mastersingers, to those who have been in choruses for years but don't classify themselves as soloists, to singers who are beginners

just finding their voice,” said BIG ARTS Community Chorus director Steve Cramer. “It's an amazingly wonderful bunch of fantastic people who love to sing and want to have fun in a chorus right here on the island.”

“Singing is one of the things I’ve always loved to do and singing under the tutelage of Steve Cramer has been an extraordinary experience,” said Chorus member Lillian Decker, an alto. “And you don’t have to try out — if you want to sing in the chorus, you sing in the chorus!”

Decker will be part of a duet during the holiday concert on Dec. 9. 

“When I first joined the chorus, we had about 20 members,” said bass Clint Parsons, a BIG ARTS Community Chorus member of eight years. Now, the chorus’ membership has jumped into the 80s — depending on the time of year. “It’s quite enjoyable. I like to sing and I like being part of a team, as I call it. Steve makes it fun — we’re not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I’m not an opera singer, I just like to sing, and Steve makes the most out of our talents.”

It’s that same passion that draws people like Parsons to the Chorus, that brings musicians to the BIG ARTS community band.

“It’s definitely a community band. We have people from Sanibel, Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Some are retired executives and a lot of them hadn’t played their instruments in over 30 years.” said BIG ARTS Community Band Director Don Knowland. “But we also have some that are very professional. One of my trumpet players plays with the Gulf Coast Symphony and another trumpet player played with the Philadelphia Symphony. But what they have in common is that they all love to play. It’s a community group through and through.”

During the holiday concert, the Community Band will perform various marches, patriotic tunes and holiday standards.

“It’s always fun digging out those old Christmas favorites,” said BIG ARTS Community Band trumpet-player Gary Eertmoed. “Some of the highlights this year, for me, include ‘Christmas in the Mountains,’ an authentic German Christmas folk tune, a Hannukah piece and a Christmas medley. The one that I really like that we did last year — and was a real crowd pleaser — is a recitation of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ with the band playing between lines of the poem read by a narrator.”

Community Chorus member Shirley Bohnert, also an alto, said that this year’s holiday concert is mostly going to be a lot of fun.

“I think Steve has picked out a great selection of music and the audience will really enjoy it — we enjoy singing it!” Bohnert said. 

For more information about all that BIG ARTS has to offer this holiday season, go to 

Holiday Art Show and Sale

Friday, Dec. 3, 5 to 7 p.m.

Experience holiday shopping during Luminary featuring work created by BIG ARTS artists and guest artist Che-Ke-Ka. 

As part of their Holiday Art Show and Sale on Sanibel Luminary Night, Dec. 3, BIG ARTS invites guests to meet Che-Ke-Ka at the artists reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Che-Ke-Ka’s Seminole Patchwork Exhibit, open at BIG ARTS on Periwinkle Gallery & Gift Shop until Dec. 8, features colorful wallhangings that tell stories with time-honored Seminole patchwork designs. 

Members of BIG ARTS faculty will also be available that evening to discuss upcoming workshops and classes and demonstrate and share samples of their work.

BIG ARTS on Periwinkle Gallery & Gift Shop is located at 2244 Periwinkle Way. Admission is free. 

Messiah and More

Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

This concert will feature treasured choruses from Handel’s Messiah and many other holiday favorites, performed by the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers. 

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students.

BIG ARTS Chorus Holiday Concert

Thursday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in Schein Hall

The BIG ARTS Chorus will sing classic holiday selections like “Silent Night,” “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas,” music from “The Nutcracker Suite,” and many favorite traditional carols and Hanukah songs, including a sing-a-long at the end. 

Tickets are $7 for adults ($5 when purchased with Band Holiday Concert) and free for children. 

Excerpts from ‘The Nutcracker Suites’

Saturday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Gulfshore Ballet and BIG ARTS present their 9th annual production of Excerpts from The Nutcracker. The role of the Cavalier will be performed by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Tyler Angle, who will be partnering with Gulfshore Ballet’s senior student, Deidre Rogan. Matinee tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children under 17, with paying adult and the evening performance is $10 for children, $20 for adults. The evening performance will be preceded by a "Nutcracker Sweets" reception on the BIG ARTS Gainer Veranda.

BIG ARTS Band Holiday Concert

Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in Schein Hall

Island Brass will open the concert with various Christmas-themed arrangements. Following Island Brass, the BIG ARTS Band will perform a variety of music, ranging from marches and patriotic selections to a number of Christmas and Hanukah arrangements. 

Tickets are $7 for adults ($5 when purchased with Band Holiday Concert) and free for children. 

For more information about tickets — or joining the BIG ARTS Community Band and Chorus — 395-0900. For more information about upcoming shows, programs, workshops, classes and more at BIG ARTS, go to 

BIG ARTS contributed to this story

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