Always beautifully decorated for the occasion, Whiting's Marian Memorial Auditorium once again becomes the setting for the annual holiday concert, presented by the Whiting Park Festival Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Vodnoy.
The program "Songs and Sounds of the Season" features guest artists, the husband-and-wife duo Susan Baushke and Steven Arvanites.
"The concert sets the tone for the spirit of the season," Baushke says.
She recalls singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and thinking about a coworker who wasn't home with her loved ones but away on military duty in Iraq.
Fortunately, she got through her tour fine, Baushke says, and will partake in special memories with her family this season.
The husband-and-wife duo previously appeared with the WPFO in the summer 2005 program titled "Broadway, Broadway," using their classical training and musical theater talents to advantage in witty and romantic numbers by Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Gilbert & Sullivan.
Prior to this occasion, the couple sang with Vodnoy and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra in a Broadway Pops concert and a production of the opera "Hansel and Gretel."
At the Holiday concert, the pair will sing selections from Handel's "Messiah," "Gesu Bambino," "Deck the Halls," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Christmas on Broadway."
In addition, Susan will sing the "Sandman's Song," and the duo will join the Schola Scelati Children's Chorus in the "Evening Prayer" (both from "Hansel and Gretel"). The duo will join the Festival Chorus in "O Holy Night," "O Come All Ye Faithful" and the annual Holiday Sing-Along.
Carefully prepared and directed by Geri Hildreth, the children's chorus consists of students from St. John the Baptist Catholic Elementary School.
Their a cappella carols from around the world add depth to the program and bear witness to things that bind rather than separate people.
As in previous Holiday concerts, Leroy Anderson's "Christmas Festival" will get the celebration off to a happy start. A couple of other orchestral highlights include the Overture Miniature from "The Nutcracker" and the lively "Farandole" from Bizet's "L'Arlesienne Suite." The orchestra consists of professional musicians who play with orchestras across the Chicago area, Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana.
Baushke and Arvanites are familiar to Northwest Indiana and Chicago-area audiences through their work with the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra, "Sing-Along Messiah" concerts and a two-person show "Delights of Courtship" in New Buffalo, Mich. The pair each received performance awards at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival.
The holiday concert is part of weekend activities in Whiting that also include the Illuminated Christmas Parade, Home for the Holidays and Arts Alive Cookie Sale.