Musical director Chris Hansen says the annual "Hark Up" Christmas presentation is subtitled a "Symphonic Celebration of Hope."
"We have 35 string players with us, including the (Hudsonville) Unity Christian Orchestra," he said of the student ensemble directed by Sara Jager. Other guests include violinist Susan Mora of the GR Symphony, cellist John Smith and violist Brysien Beer.
The "Hark Up" production features hundreds of singers, dancers, instrumentalists and multi-media in an original show called "Sing A New Song," and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5 and 3 p.m. Dec. 6 in DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids Christian High School.
Returning this year are soloists Shannon Dykstra, Lisa Butler and Eric Billin. Bob Wells (on-field host for the West Michigan WhiteCaps) is back with some humorous musical contributions.
Once again there are song parodies in the 2015 version. This year the crew does Christmas turns on the Toto song "Rosanna" ("Oh, Santa") and Bruno Mars' "Up Town Funk" ("Hark Up Town Christmas").
Adult and children's choirs, Big Band Horns and the Ardan Irish Dancers also participate. And the Melia Huffman Dancers add touches of jazz, pop and swing dance.
"I am most excited that our creative director (Scott Pedersen) has crafted a very unique blend of musical styles, media and story throughout the concert," Hansen said.
Among the stringed instrument highlights will be the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of "Carol of the Bells."
Hark Up began in 1999 at Fair Haven Ministries church. Over the years it has grown and found a permanent home at the DeVos Center for Worship and Arts.
CHRISTMAS OF A DIFFERENT KIND
Singer-songwriter Mark Schultz has set his holiday tour for 6 p.m. Sunday Dec. 6 at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland (details below).
Special guests are the husband-wife duo Love & the Outcome and singer Jon Bauer team up for "A Different Kind of Christmas."
The Zeeland concert is partnering with a local food pantry, His Harvest Stand. "Bring a bag of groceries with your ticket and get into the concert early to get the best seats," said organizer Kathleen Bobeldyk of Community Concert Connections.
Schultz has sold more than a million albums in his 15 year career. Last year he released the holiday song, "A Different Kind of Christmas" which titles this tour.
"There's also a walk-up choir from Community Reformed and the Calvary Schools of Holland High School Choir who will be doing vocal back up on a couple of Mark's songs," Bobeldyk added.
The artist offers his personal invitation online.
BACK TO THE FUTURE.....
Here's a real throwback: "Rock Vespers" featuring the dynamic duo of John Grooters and Dwight Beal returns Dec. 4 and 5 to Community Reformed Church in Zeeland (ticket info and other details below).
Grooters & Beal first teamed up back in the 1980s during their Hope College days in their former band Emmaus Road.
But as a duo – with several side players – they launched "Rock Vespers," a musical-multimedia extravaganza variety show that had a decade long run with three Christmas CDs and culminating with a huge finale in 1998 in the old Welsh Auditorium.
In 2011 they came together for a more intimate "story telling version" which was released on CD the following year. But this time around the guys are going back toward their former approach with a show titled "The Need For Christmas." Returning is their long time guest vocalist Marcia Ware.
...AND SOUTHERN STYLE
Two regional Southern gospel groups – Faithful Journey (from the Lowell area) and the 4One Quartet (from Reed City) will take the stage at 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 4 at Messiah Christian Reformed Church, 2900 Springdale in Hudsonville.
Faithful Journey lead singer Jim Visser says both groups will be singing some Christmas songs as part of their concert sets. The area foursome includes Visser, Scott Roon, Dennis Deters and Doug Barton.
The 4One Quartet features lead singer Jim Quales.
No tickets are necessary, a free-will offering will be received.
Hark Up – Sing A New Song featuring a variety of dance and musical ensembles and soloists – 7 p.m. Fri and Sat. Dec. 4 and 5 and 3 p.m. Sun. Dec. 6 at DeVos Center for Arts and Worship, 2300 Plymouth Rd. SE. Tickets range from $12 to $35, with youth group discounts and family-pack ticket specials available. Purchase at the box office or online at www.dcaw.org, 616-574-5600.
Mark Schultz, Love & The Outcome, Jon Bauer – 6 p.m. Sunday Dec. 6 at Community Reformed Church, 10376 Felch St. Zeeland. General admission tickets are $12, (group rate $10); $25 VIP includes early entrance. Available via www.itickets.com, 800-965-9324.
Rock Vespers: The Need For Christmas – featuring Grooters & Beal, 7 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Dec. 4 and 5 in Community Reformed Church, 10376 Felch St. Zeeland. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. A four-pack of advance tickets is $35. Available via www.itickets.com, 800-965-9324.