- Suppose for a moment that Santa Claus lived in the Caribbean or
in South America rather than the North Pole. Following that thought
to its unique end, imagine a family holiday concert spectacular,
one of rhythmic proportions and a touch of jazz, that will transform
traditional Christmas music into toe-tapping, reggae fun.
rather amusing idea into reality is a simple feat for The University
of Southern Mississippi Steel Band, Percussion Ensemble and Samba
Band. These groups, all under the direction of John Wooton, associate
professor in the School of Music, will present two shows of their
ever-popular "Rhythms of Christmas" at 7:30 p.m. on Dec.
6 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 7 in Bennett Auditorium.
is a family holiday event for the young and the young at heart,"
Wooton said. "This concert will be great fun for kids and adults
alike. Many Christmas events are very serious. This is not. This
event is refreshing and entertaining - the kind of concert that
will leave people literally dancing in the aisles!"
first produced the concert in December 2001, likes to add new twists
to his lighthearted creation each year. He has asked colleague Larry
Panella to have his Jazz Lab Band "join the party."
professor and director of jazz studies at Southern Miss, will lead
his ensemble in a big band rendition of "God Bless Ye Merry
Gentlemen" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
As for the
percussion ensembles, a variety of music styles will be represented
- Caribbean sounds, samba versions of Christmas standards, and a
nontraditional version of the very traditional "Twelve Days
of Christmas," which involves everything from reggae to opera.
Twelve Grooves of Christmas' will feature someone dressed up for
each day, representing a particular style of music," Wooton
said. "For example, the first day will be opera, and that part
will be sung by a performer using an operatic voice, but the second
day will be of the heavy metal style, and the third day is swing
style, and so on.
"This year, we've asked Frank Cilantro to join us. It's going
to be our most memorable show yet."
highlights include a jazzy "Jingle Bells," the hand-drumming
ensemble performing "Ave Maria," and the Southern Miss
Salsa Band's rendition of "Feliz Navidad."
special treat for us, the third grade class from Sacred Heart School
will join us in a hip version of 'Away in a Manager,'" Wooton
said. "And Santa Claus - or more appropriately, Rasta Claus,
as they say down south of us - will be there too - in his jams,
$10 for adult general admission and $5 for senior citizens, students
and children under 12. For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket
Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425. Order online at www.usm.edu/tickets.