OLEAN – The holiday season is in full swing and the Olean Community Theater is ready to keep that party feeling this weekend.
Two performances of “A Christmas Celebration” by the OCTaves Jazz Band are scheduled this evening and Saturday at the new home of the Olean Community Theater on South Barry Street.
The local jazz group consists of 17 musicians, led by director Ruth Fuller, and will perform a selection of holiday songs, both religious and secular, from traditional to 20th century standards.
The evening will also feature singers Angie Emley, Tim Hollamby, Mark Lungershausen, Christine Panebianco, Alexandra Scalise, Skyler Schapp and Rodney Stebbins.
“We’re playing a bunch of Christmas favorites that everyone will know about,” said Hollamby, president of OCT. “And Ruth also introduces each section of the band, so there’s a brass section song that they do, a flute quartet, different things like that.”
Since moving into their new home at former B’Nai Israel Temple last year, Hollamby said the OCTaves have given three concerts, but this will be their very first holiday show.
“The OCTaves will probably perform three or four times a year in the theater in the future in addition to the normal shows that we do,” he said.
The program consists of 14 songs ranging in genre and style from “Silent Night” to “Santa Baby”, “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” to “O Holy Night”. Hollamby said one of the stars was the last song before the intermission, “Mary, Did You Know,” which features the whole band and all the singers.
“A lot of us haven’t been able to get through all of this without crying,” he said. “The harmonies in the new space that we have are so pretty. I think it will be an audience favorite.
After not being able to perform together for over a year, Hollamby said the band members were excited to perform together again. He said it was difficult for everyone not to work together for so long that they were all eager to start over.
“It’s nice to be able to do different things in the theater and come back to a schedule again,” he added.
Unfortunately, the performance will be bittersweet as their longtime percussionist will not be present. The concert will be dedicated to the memory of Harold Williams, who died suddenly on November 29.
Hollamby said Williams was a constant boost on the theatre’s pit orchestra drums for nearly 20 years and was a founding member of the OCTaves. He said he didn’t recall a show Williams was not involved in.
“It’s a huge loss for OCT and the community too because he was a great guy on every level,” he said. “We want to pay tribute to him and dedicate this performance to him. “
Because the 2020 holiday season was far from normal with hardly any live events and most things happening streaming, Hollamby said he hopes this concert will help people put themselves in the minds of Christmas.
“There is nothing quite like sitting in a large auditorium or a large theater and listening to live music, especially Christmas music. It always puts everyone in a good mood, ”he said. “And we turned the inside of the theater into a winter wonderland, so when you walk in you say, ‘Wow, that’s so pretty in here’, so I think people will feel that when they walk into the room. “
Performances of “A Christmas Celebration” take place tonight at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Theater at 127 S. Barry Street. Tickets are $ 5 each at the door.
As coronavirus cases continue to rise, participants will be required to wear masks inside the theater, regardless of their vaccination status.
Homemade cookies and hot chocolate will also be available for purchase. Additional donations are welcome to help support the OCT Building Fund.
The OCTaves’ Christmas celebration is made possible by the New York State Council of the Arts, with support from the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.