Since 1952, the annual Vernon Rotary Christmas Carol Festival has provided a performance venue for many local community choirs, musicians and vocal ensembles to perform.
And this year, voices and instruments will be raised on high –– with a delicious jazzy twist –– at three live concerts of seasonal songs and Christmas carols, Saturday and Sunday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
Kelowna jazz vocalist Anna Jacyszyn is joining the plethora of performers as this year’s special guest and will sing at all three shows, said festival chairman Gordon Gregerson with the Rotary Club of Vernon.
“We’re always looking a few years ahead for headliners, and Anna was recommended to us,” he said.
“I have sang in many countries all over the world and in every place that I have been, there also is a Rotary Club for ex-pats and local friends,” said Jacyszyn. “The Rotary Club is not only a great group of people who know how to have decadent fun as well as involve themselves in serious issues, so when the Rotary Club of Vernon asks for me, I can’t help but say yes.”
Born in Poland and raised in the Okanagan, Jacyszyn spent a number of years in the U.K and Europe where she found work as a back-up vocalist for groups such as Yazz as well as for Marshall Jefferson and Cher.
While in Britain, where she formed her own jazz band, she performed all over Europe and for events such as the FIFA World Cup VIP hospitality room in Japan and Germany, and at the BAFTA after-parties (British equivalent to the Oscars).
She also performed at the royal birthday bash for the Sultan of Oman’s nephew in 2004, and at parties during the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.
Since moving back to Kelowna three years ago, Jacyszyn founded the Jazz Café, a monthly speakeasy at the Black Box in the Kelowna Community Theatre, where she has raised bursary money for local music students. She regularly performs with a band of well-known Okanagan jazz musicians, including bassist Bernie Addington, pianist Neville Bowman, saxophonist Craig Thomson and drummer Scotty Gamble, and released the album, Lush Life, in 2009.
The winner of the 2010 Okanagan Arts Award for music, North Okanagan audiences have previously been exposed to her talents when Jacyszyn joined the Okanagan Symphony for a jazzy Christmas in 2010. She has also performed at the Vernon Jazz Club on a number of occasions.
Jacyszyn will perform a number of holiday classics at her Rotary Carol Festival appearance including Santa Baby, All I Want for Christmas is You, Winter Wonderland, Do You Hear What I Hear and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
“We usually have seven acts that do two sets each at each show, and then there is always the audience participation,” said Gregerson, adding the festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary next year.
“(Longtime Vernon resident and choir leader) Molly Boyd is once again leading all our audience sing-alongs. Molly has been a staple with our organization for many years since the beginning in 1952, and has helped us whenever she has been in town.”
As in the past, Vernon Rotary will donate proceeds from the carol festival to support the Rotary Spring Breakout for Seniors, a free dinner and dance with live entertainment attended by more than 500 local seniors every March.
“This could not happen without the generosity of our local sponsors and volunteers from the Rotary Club of Vernon,” said Gregerson.
Saturday’s performances take place at 2 and 7 p.m., while Sunday’s show is at 2 p.m. Admission to all three shows is by donation.