By BONNIE HARDAWAY
The holidays are in full swing! First came Thanksgiving, when we feasted and counted our blessings with family and friends. Then, the sales on Black Friday beckoned us to save as we spent! When we turned that calendar page on Dec. 1, however, it was a bit of a shock to see how early Christmas arrives this year. The countdown is on, with so much to do, so much to remember. Life is now full of reminders – catalogs are pouring into our mailboxes, store windows are vividly red and green, and children are making their gift wishes known. But, it may be the sounds of the season that we’re most aware of.
Christmas music surrounds us. It’s in grocery stores, schools, malls, airports, and places of worship. And, in Wood County, it’s even unexpectedly to be found in an old movie theater. The historic Select Theater (also known as the Lake Country Playhouse) in downtown Mineola still shows movies on weekends and performs plays on stage, but during December it is the fourth and final performance for the year of its symphonic band that is a holiday treat not to be missed.
The band consists of over 50 volunteer musicians. The youngest, in his teens, plays in the percussion section; the oldest, in his eighties, plays the trumpet. Their conductor ( and MC of the program) is Mike Holbrook. Under his leadership, concerts at the Select play to sold-out houses. He sets a tone that’s relaxed, friendly, and humorous. The concession stand provides popcorn, candy, and soft drinks to be enjoyed during the performance. Adults pay $5.00 admission; children 11 and under are free. Every performance opens with a rousing rendition of the national anthem with many in the audience proudly singing along.
This year’s concert on Sunday, December 14, features both secular and religious selections. For any music lover familiar with the Boston Pops, there will be Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.” Churchgoers will recognize the lines from the book of Revelation which George Frideric Handel used in the mighty Hallelujah Chorus in his “Messiah.” Expect two hours of live music and entertaining commentary that regularly receives a standing ovation at its conclusion. The concert begins at 2:00 PM, and everyone is urged to reserve tickets and arrive early because it sells out. The Box Office number is 903.569.2300. It opens at 1:30 on Sunday to sell tickets as well, but expect a line.
Whether it’s electronic or live, the music of the season is to be enjoyed. The Lake Country Playhouse Symphonic Band’s live performance is just one of many available. Put it at the top of a list and seek out others at colleges, churches, and performance halls for a very merry Christmas.