For David Pierce, the first Denton Holiday Music Spectacular was a laboratory.
“Last year was definitely a learning experience,” said Pierce, who composed and arranged the music for his first finale of the Holiday Lighting Festival. “Everything I set out to accomplish I feel like I accomplished.”
Pierce is giving the spectacular a tune-up for this year’s Denton Holiday Lighting festival on the Square. And this year, he has his sights set on a new accomplishment: Giving holiday lighting revelers something to dance to.
“I noticed when things would hit a lull,” he said. “I watched the pacing of the show and enjoyed some of the really beautiful songs. But this year, we’re definitely going to include some up-tempo music.”
The Holiday Lighting of 2011 was a smorgasbord of local talent – of the Grammy winning and indie sort. Bonnie Norris scored crowd 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 “Oh Holy Night.” Steve Wiest, the director of the University of North Texas One O’ Clock Lab Band got off to a pitchy start with a jazzy solo, thanks to a trombone-molesting cold front, but warmed up and made up for the faltering start. 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 home.
That lineup returns to the Nov. 30 lighting’s Holiday Music Spectacular. Pierce will conduct an 11-piece Holiday Lighting Orchestra to accompany artists. New additions are regulars on the stage of Dan’s Silverleaf: A Taste of Herb, a Herb Alpert tribute band; bluesman Guitar George Woolard; Jazz singer Rosanna Eckert; Denton indie staple Robert Gomez; and local rockabilly and rocker Brent Best.
Paul Slavens, A Denton musical institution and host of The Paul Slavens Show on KERA-KXT 91.7FM returns.
“I loved Paul doing The Grinch (Who Stole Christmas),” Pierce said. “We zipped through it. 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, but he’s got enough character voices to supply a radio play.
Members of Midlake will be back, too. Barnes and Wiest return, too.
Pierce said he recruited Best, an alumnus of Slobberbone and the Drams, to the stage and got a dose of serendipity.
“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. That, he said, would be a best case scenario.
“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?”
The holiday music won’t be confined to the spectacular’s stage, though. The Denton Community Band will take its traditional post as the opening act and accompanist of the Christmas carol sing-along. After that (and before the Spectacular) revelers need only find a stage on the courthouse lawn – or inside the commissioner courtroom – to hear music by a buffet of community performing arts groups.
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is email@example.com
DENTON HOLIDAY LIGHTING FESTIVAL 2012
When: 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 30
Where: Historic Downtown Denton Square, 110 W. Hickory St.
Parking: Free parking is available at the Wells Fargo Bank, 101 S. Locust St. and The Bayless-Selby House Museum, 317 W. Mulberry St. parking lots. Free parking is also available at the MedPark Station with a free, short A-train ride to downtown Denton using the code cord “Mistletoe!” Parking for those with disabilities is located on the west side of the Wells Fargo building on Locust Street.
How much: Free