The heartwarming Fair Exchange of Gifts Benefit Concert takes place at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 at Shuswap Theatre.
This is the fifth year for the popular show, which will be raising funds for the Shuswap Family Resource and Referral Centre, Salvation Army Food Bank and Shuswap Second Harvest.
Concert co-producer Ted Crouch is excited about this year’s lineup, which includes soprano Stephanie Nakagawa, violinists Denis Letourneau and Susan Schaffer, Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Aspen Switzer, a Million Dollars in Pennies, perennial favourites Blu and Kelly Hopkins and Crouch’s co-producer and storyteller James Murray.
Nakagawa’s voice has been described as “clear as-a-bell and soaring.”
She has sung with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the Indiana University Opera Theatre, UBC Opera, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Westcoast Symphony Orchestra, Oberlin in Italy, Prince George Symphony and the North Bohemian Philharmonic in the Czech Republic.
A graduate of UBC’s opera program and winner of the prestigious UBC Medal, Nakagawa holds a master’s degree from Indiana University and is currently pursuing her doctorate.
“We are also pleased to have singer-songwriter Aspen Switzer back in the lineup this year, she is such a talented songwriter …, with such a beautiful, haunting voice,” Crouch says. “We are also thrilled to have a Million Dollars in Pennies, Stephanie Webster and Mike Shaver, formerly of Old Man’s Beard, who just got back from a musical cycling tour across Canada.”
Okanagan Symphony concertmaster Denis Letourneau and assistant concertmaster Susan Schaffer have mesmerized audiences at each of the previous Fair Exchange of Gifts concerts as have Blu and Kelly Hopkins.
“Denis and Susan and Blu and Kelly have been with us from the beginning, the very first show,” says Crouch. “Their willingness to take part, year after year, is what the show is all about – the spirit of the show.”
Crouch says the concert provides the performers with a way to say thank you to all the people who have come out to their shows and supported them all year long.
For the audience it’s a chance to enjoy a great show and support a worthy cause at the same time.
“Everyone gets to feel good and, more importantly, people in need get to have a better Christmas,” he says. “It really is a fair exchange.”
Crouch notes that, to date, Fair Exchange of Gifts benefit concerts have raised in excess of $10,000 for local charities.
From opera, classical and contemporary, bluegrass, folk-blues and storytelling, this year’s show has something for everyone.
One special feature the audience can look forward to this year will be the premiere of a song co-written by Murray and Crouch, based on the memory of a friend that died far too young.
It was Murray’s poignant story, A Fair Exchange of Gifts, about what he would give Duffy, his faithful canine companion of many years, that gave rise to the annual benefit concert.
“We were sitting around one night, rehearsing for a show (six years ago) and just talking about how we could do something for the community,” recalls Crouch, noting he and Murray have performed together on stage for a fair number of years. “We came up with the idea of an old-style Christmas variety concert, and then we just looked at each other and blurted out at the same time – A Fair Exchange of Gifts. That’s how it all got started.”
Over the years, the show’s lineup has included Juno Award winners, local talent and a number of stars on the rise. The show is sponsored by local businesses and all the proceeds from the gate go to charity. Food and unwrapped gifts are also welcome and will also be dropped of to this year’s charities.
“There is a real need out there this year,” says Shuswap Family Resource and Referral Centre Executive Director Patti Thurston, a sentiment that is shared by Salvation Army Food Bank Community Care Co-ordinator Dave Byers. “Our numbers are way up this year. The need is greater than ever.”
Tickets for the concert are $15 and are available at Askew’s Foods (both Salmon Arm stores), Save On Foods and the Salmon Arm Observer.
Tickets for the concert sell out quickly so don’t be disappointed. Get yours early and be a part of what a Fair Exchange of Gifts is all about.