Smoot House Band prepping for annual Hometown Christmas performance
PARKERSBURG — The musical sounds of the holidays will ring throughout the historic Smoot Theater in Parkersburg on Friday as the annual Hometown Christmas show is presented.
The concert will be 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Smoot Theatre, 213 Fifth St., in downtown Parkersburg. Tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for students high school and younger and are available by calling the Smoot at 304-422-PLAY (7529).
For almost 25 years now, the Smoot Theatre has produced this show, said Smoot director Felice Jorgeson.
In the beginning it was the brainchild of Mary and Harold Eberhart and the load of it fell heavily on the local chorus that Mary always put together.
“Now, the nucleus of the show is the Smoot House Band, along with help from the Smoot Singers,” Jorgeson said Sunday. “One of the biggest challenges in putting together an annual Christmas show is the fact that Christmas music is Christmas music.
“How many ways can you do ‘Silent Night’ or ‘White Christmas?’ So year after year, the Smoot continues the tradition, but always searching for fun, challenging and ambitious arrangements of that very old and very traditional Christmas music.”
Theatre goers will be treated to carols played by the big band, but in styles that most do not hear in church during the Christmas season. The 18-member band will be joined by a five-person string section as well as six vocalists who will make up The Smoot Singers.
The band has brought on board a new trombone player, Rick Lillard, who will be heard playing solos. Lillard had previously performed with the Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force and which is part of the United States Air Force Band. Lillard was featured in the group’s Christmas recordings in the ’80s and ’90s.
“He is even teaming up with a couple of 9-year-old twins, Alex and Christian Marshall, as he tells them all about the things Santa expects when ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,'” Jorgeson said. “The boys are having some trouble convincing Mom and Dad that they simply want a hippopotamus for Christmas.
“You guessed it. The twins are singing ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.'”
Band members include Whitney Hess, Tim Marks, Buddy Lee, Tom Myers, Richard Board, Melissa Herceg, Eric Staats, Brian McCommon, Sheila Wiseman, Erich Haller, Mike Lockney, Ben Wright, Les Paul, Dorothy Bryant, Jeff Edman, Angie Harkness, Larry Starcher and David Nuss. The string section is made up of Ashley Clark, Dan Corcaran, Connie Bookman, Amaris Kibbee and Bob Herceg.
“We’re all musicians and we love to make music and there is nothing better than Christmas music,” Board said. “This is a great theater and a great house.”
Many in the Smoot House Band are active and former music teachers from area schools.
Board, the baritone sax and clarinet player, admits the majority of their audience for this show is getting grayer.
“They really appreciate the music,” he said. “We really do it for fun.”
The majority of the music is presented in a jazz style.
“Many people would describe the music as ‘swing’ but there are a lot of ballads too,” Board said.
People will hear some new arrangements of some classic holiday songs, he said. Board hopes those who come, above all else, will have fun.
“The interaction between the performers and the audience is unbelievable,” he said. “They respond because they like this style of music and they like to hear ‘Jingle Bells” in a way they have never heard it before.
“They respond with their applause, their laughter and everything.”
Board credits the singers with adding a whole new level to the show.
“When you add the vocal part to the instrumental part it makes a complete show,” he said.
The Smoot Singers are Su Meredith, Barbara Full, Marsha Parsons, R.J. Lowe, Bob Heflin and David Rexroad. Rexroad credits the band with making singing the music so much fun.
“This band is out of this world,” he said. “It is a real honor to be able to sing with them.”
The band adds a new dimension to the music.
“It just brings everything to life,” Rexroad said. “They are just so good.”
In addition to the band, Jane Kincheloe Wilfong is the piano soloist and The Janes, The Williams Family and the Smoot Boys Ensemble will also be performing.
For many in the community, this annual concert kicks off their holiday season.
“People leave here filled with the holiday spirit,” Rexroad said.