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Trombonist Steve Wiest, left, practices during a rehearsal for last year’s Denton Holiday Music Spectacular. Wiest, pictured here with fellow trombonist and bandleader of the Spectacular David Pierce, returns to the holiday stage next week.
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Homegrown performers shine when Denton flips the switch on the holiday season

Circle next Friday, Nov. 30, on your calendar. Denton has a date with twinkling lights, a night full of music and piping hot wassail.

The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival is the night when city leaders join merry music-makers, tiny dancers and loads of families to flip the switch. Come 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, Denton will be wearing wreaths, lights and a festive air for the holidays.

This year marks the second year that the Denton Holiday Festival Association will start the holidays on a Friday — a move the group made last year to encourage more families to step out for carols, community performances and visits with Santa Claus.

The local Convention and Visitors Bureau again entices Denton’s neighbors to the south with a A-train campaign advertising the festival.

The party starts with music by the Denton Community Band — what would the holiday lighting be without the Christmas carol sing-along led by Carol Lynn Mizell? — and ends with more music.

This is the second festival with David Pierce as the man at the bandstand of the Denton Holiday Music Spectacular. This year, the Denton musician and composer said the band will roll out some dance tunes.

“Last year was definitely a learning experience,” said Pierce, who composed and arranged the music for the finale of the Holiday Lighting Festival. “Everything I set out to accomplish — I noticed when things would hit a lull. I watched the pacing of the show and enjoyed some of the really beautiful songs.”

The 2011 festival was the first time that the concert finale offered a smorgasbord of local talent — of the Grammy-winning and indie sort.

Bonnie Norris scored the crowd’s affection with “Santa Baby,” and Jeffrey Barnes quieted the crowd with “Santa Got Lost in Texas.” Bubba Hernandez showed off his bluesy voice with an R&B number, and Sarah Jaffe sang Pierce’s moody arrangement of “O Holy Night.” Steve Wiest, the director of the University of North Texas One O’clock Lab Band, got off to a pitchy start — thanks to a damp and trombone-molesting cold front — but he warmed up and made up for it with his jazzy solo. It was a portion of Denton’s Midlake that gifted the revelers with a rousing and hopeful rendition of John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)” before sending Denton holiday revelers home.

Much of the lineup returns to next week’s Holiday Music Spectacular. Pierce will conduct the 11-piece Holiday Lighting Orchestra.

Paul Slavens, a Denton musical institution and KKXT-FM radio host, returns to the lineup of featured performers. Last year he did a reading of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

“I loved Paul doing The Grinch. … We zipped through it,” Pierce said. “It’s not a short piece, but Paul was great. And I’d love for The Grinch to become a big visual thing for the kids.”

Slavens isn’t just a versatile musician who plays with a number of local acts — he’s got enough character voices to supply a radio play.

Members of Midlake will be back. Barnes and Wiest return, too. Pierce recruited Slobberbone singer-guitarist Brent Best to the stage.

“I was talking to Brent about doing the show, and he said, ‘I even have this holiday song called “The Gum Drop.” I could do that if you wanted.’ Of course I wanted him to,” Pierce said.

If he gets his fair share of Denton magic on stage, Pierce said musicians might start offering to perform at the lighting.

“I envisioned this thing as more or less a concert where these talented musicians who live in Denton perform holiday music they’ve written, instead of it being their take of a famous Christmas song. You want that, too,” Pierce said, “but part of the reason this event looks a certain way — almost like a Norman Rockwell painting — is because it’s about Denton.

“My vision has been for this concert to be Denton musicians doing original holiday music. How cool and how magical is it to have this kind of little town where you have this vibe, where people get together and play music and it’s great?”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is cbreeding@dentonrc.com .

WASSAIL FEST

The Denton Main Street Association’s Wassail Fest offers free tastings of the warm mulled cider drink at downtown businesses from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 30. People can vote for their favorite recipe. Visit www.dentonmainstreet.org .

 

TOY DRIVE

Denton County Toy Store, a nonprofit organization serving children of qualified families, will collect donations at the southeast corner of the Square, and at several drop-off locations prior to the festival. Visit www.dentonholidaylighting.com/toy-drive-2 .

 

DENTON HOLIDAY LIGHTING FESTIVAL

When: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30

Where: On the downtown Denton Square, 110 W. Hickory St.

Details: Admission is free. Photos with Santa cost $7; horse-drawn wagon rides cost $3. Local nonprofit organizations will sell food.

Parking: Free parking is available at the parking lots of Wells Fargo Bank, at Oak and Austin streets, and the Bayless-Selby House Museum, 317 W. Mulberry St. Parking for those with disabilities is located on the west side of the Wells Fargo building on Locust Street.

Public transit: Free parking is also available at the MedPark Station, 3220 MedPark Drive, and other A-train stations with a free ride to the Downtown Denton Transit Center. Use the code word “mistletoe” to ride the A-train and Connect bus service free on the night of Nov. 30. Complimentary bus rides will be available from the transit center to the Square area. For schedules and more information, visit www.dcta.net .

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

FESTIVAL STAGE

At the corner of Hickory and Locust streets

 5:30 to 5:45 p.m. — Denton Community Band

 5:45 to 6 p.m. — Tree lighting

 6 to 6:20 p.m. — Denton Community Band

 6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Festival Ballet of North Central Texas

 7 to 7:20 p.m. — Denton High School Jazz Band 1

 7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — V-Krewe Brass Ensemble

 

PERFORMANCE STAGE

Main stage on the lawn of the Courthouse on the Square

 6:15 to 6:35 p.m. — Syncopated Ladies

 6:45 to 7:05 p.m. — Glory of Zion Singers

 7:40 to 8 p.m. — A Taste of Herb

 8 to 9:30 p.m. — Denton Holiday Music Spectacular

 

DCTA CLOCK TOWER

At the Downtown Denton Transit Center, 604 E. Hickory St.

 5:30 to 6 p.m. — Garage Band

 6:10 to 6:40 p.m. — Katha Harris

 

DANCING IN THE STREETS PERFORMANCE AREA

At the corner of Locust and Oak streets

 6 to 6:20 p.m. — Ryan High School Strutters

 6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Bonduris Music Instruction and Production

 7 to 7:20 p.m. — First Baptist Music Ministry

 7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — House of Funk Theatre Company

 

WELLS FARGO BANK LOBBY

Inside the bank at the corner of Locust and Hickory streets

 6 to 6:20 p.m. — Strickland Jazz Band

 6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Strickland Middle School Chamber Orchestra

 7 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. — Handbells at Strickland

 7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — Denton Community Choir

 

COMMISSIONERS COURTROOM

Inside the Courthouse on the Square

 6 to 6:20 p.m. — Childbloom Guitar Ensemble

 6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Pulling Strings

 7 to 7:20 p.m. — Sing Texas!

 7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — Texas Woman’s University Holiday Sign Choir

 

UNT ON THE SQUARE

109 S. Elm St.

 6 to 7:30 p.m. — Seasonal music by University of North Texas College of Music students


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