Performers from Valley Vocal Arts (above) join local soprano Melina Moore (below) with special guests for the annual production

Performers from Valley Vocal Arts (above) join local soprano Melina Moore (below) with special guests for the annual production

Voices carry in song for local tradition

A Melina Moore Christmas takes the stage for two shows at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre

With its humble beginnings at the Schubert Centre in 1996, coloratura soprano Melina Moore was brand new to the Okanagan and freshly relocated from her hometown of New York City.

It was a blustery November and, feeling homesick for the sights and sounds of Manhattan at Christmastime, she decided to present a small musical offering for the members of her new community. Thus, a holiday tradition was born, and has spanned the past 18 years, growing in splendour and magnitude with each passing year.

This Christmas will be no exception.

“Ultimately, my priority in producing this show each year is to unite as many people and groups in our wonderful community as possible,” said Moore. “This is the only production each year in which I star alongside all of my students, bring in professional colleagues, and am able to join forces with dancers, actors, instrumentalists and esteemed guest artists. It’s all about giving back to a community which gives so much to us.”

Moore, who produces, directs and/or performs in at least a dozen large productions a year, says that her Christmas production remains her favourite.

“It embodies the spirit of community, the joy of the holidays, the laughter of children, the joining together in song and the true meaning of fellowship and brotherhood,” she said.

Audiences can expect to hear all of their traditional Christmas favourites and be introduced to new repertoire.

“It is a spectacle of song and dance of all ages, for all ages. Our final piece will quite literally encircle the entire audience in song,” said Moore.  “It is truly a tradition of music, magic and mistletoe.”

In addition to running the vocal training and performance school, Valley Vocal Arts, Moore’s newest endeavour is the launch of her production company, Big Apple Productions, which just debuted the Rocky Horror Show in October to great acclaim.

“Big Apple is the culmination of a dream I’ve been building for the past almost-two-decades I’ve resided here,” said Moore. “It is already enabling me to fulfill a vision of bringing the highest calibre theatre, opera and operetta to our valley.”

Big Apple will be presenting the 18th annual A Melina Moore Christmas, with some very special guests.

“I’m thrilled to be reunited with local baritone Alan Corbishley, with whom I had the honour of performing the Mozart Requiem in 2011 with the Okanagan Symphony,” said Moore.

In addition to having an illustrious opera career worldwide, Corbishley is the founder and artistic director of BC Living Arts, based in Kamloops.

Contralto Jennifer Hines, a resident of New York City and fellow Music & Art High School and Juilliard School alumna of Moore’s, will also be taking the holiday stage alongside Moore and her assembled cast of more than 200.

“Through the powers of social media, Jennifer and I have been reunited after almost 20 years.  This show will mark our first performance together in just as long, and we are beyond excited.”

Hines and Moore have been working together for the past several months, creating their touring production called SIRENS, which will launch an international tour beginning in 2015.

With her unusually low voice, Hines possesses one of the rarest voice types in the world. Lauded by the famed publication Opera News for her “rich, dark mezzo,” Hines made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009 as Carmen, with Maestro James Levine conducting. She is a renowned performer of international acclaim, maintaining an active relationship with The Met, Seattle Opera, Atlanta Opera, Florentine Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Nashville Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Portland Opera and New York City Opera dating from the fall of 1999.

Hines is a native of Long Island and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s in music from Juilliard. She is a former apprentice artist with Santa Fe Opera, Tanglewood Music Center participant, and member of Seattle Opera’s Young Artist Program.

She will also be giving a vocal master class to Valley Vocal Arts during her Vernon stay.

In addition to these two esteemed soloists, joining Moore on stage will be local pianist Jim Leonard, Sun FM’s Brian Martin as Santa Claus, City Dance Studios, Diversity Dance under the leadership of Lisa Schofield, who is head choreographer with Big Apple Productions, W.L. Seaton’s Honour and Show Choirs under the direction of Lana O’Brien, who will also be making her solo debut alongside Moore and Hines, Valley Vocal Arts’ Mini Divas, Company Junior and Company singers, and The Regalo Octet.

“The Regalo Octet, meaning the gift in Italian, is one of my favourite parts of the show. I hand select eight voices to mingle and create harmonic magic in beloved and lesser known holiday music. It’s such a beautiful part of the show,” said Moore.

A Melina Moore Christmas would not be possible without the dozens of local business sponsors and volunteers in the community.

“The generosity of our local businesses is staggering to me. I’m so grateful to have created a tradition which so many from our town clamour to be a part of.  I couldn’t do it without them,” said Moore.

A Melina Moore Christmas takes the stage for two shows at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469,