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Homegrown talent to shine in the spotlight during ‘Hometown Holiday’

Diverse hometown talent fuels the appeal of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual “Hometown Holiday” SuperPops concert, slated Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Schuster Center.

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Under the direction of Patrick Reynolds, choirs, choruses and special guest vocalist Felita LaRock will unite for a festive musical celebration of the season. Program highlights include Steven Amundon’s “On Christmas Day” and Matthew Peterson’s “Dawn: Redeeming, Radiant” along with a holiday selection from Kettering Children’s Choir as well as Kettering Fairmont High School a cappella ensemble Eleventh Hour’s interpretations of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

“What I enjoy most about our ‘Hometown Holiday’ is that we draw musicians from our larger community and celebrate the season by sharing our Philharmonic stage with them,” Reynolds said. “For the Philharmonic, our Dayton community is, in a very real way, our family, so it is especially joyful to be able to share our music-making with our ‘family.’ With this program I try to balance music that reflects all of the joyfulness, beauty, excitement, thoughtfulness, and fun of the holiday season. So, our audience can expect a wonderful range of musical styles, from jazzy and popular to classical and gently heartwarming. As always, we’ll have a caol singalong, one of my favorite parts of any holiday concert!”

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LaRock, particularly wonderful last season singing jazz standards as part of the Dayton Ballet’s outstanding production of “The Great Gatsby,” is excited for another opportunity to be a part of another grand gathering of local artists. She’s sung with the USAF Band of Flight and USAF Band of the Pacific, but finds concerts such as “Hometown Holiday” unique in scope and outreach.

“I’ve lived and traveled abroad due to my military career and what I’ve treasured most here in the Miami Valley has been our support for the arts,” LaRock said. “Having our Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Dayton Ballet right in the heart of downtown Dayton helps bring people of many different faiths, ethnicities and (perspectives) together for the common goal of being entertained by some of Dayton’s best musicians, vocalist and dancers. Shows like “Hometown Holiday’ are the heart of Dayton because they utilize what Dayton has to offer — local talent! I know because I am certainly grateful to be one of those artists to be blessed by the (DPO’s) invitation throughout the year.”

In particular, LaRock will perform Rodgers and Hart’s tender ballad “Little Girl Blue,” originally heard in the 1935 musical “Jumbo” and memorably recorded by Nina Simone in 1958, and Chris Tomlin’s passionate, inspirational “Noel.”

“I’m excited to sing these songs because I wish to put a smile on someone’s face and hopefully help heal a broken heart if need be,” LaRock said.

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“Felita has a rare and natural gift to connect with her audiences,” Reynolds added. “Her performances bring that perfect combination of artistry and sincerity, a genuineness that reaches the audience on almost a personal level. I admire this very much.”

The concert also features the Holiday Pops Community Chorus which comprises members of Epiphany Lutheran Church, Kirkmont Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Dayton Celebration Chorus, St. Luke’s Catholic Church, Normandy United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church, and Peace Lutheran Church. The Sinclair Community College Concert Handbell Choir will also appear to offer holiday favorites.

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“My hope for this year’s audience is for a joyful experience,” Reynolds said. “A joy of music, a joyful celebration of our community and, most of all, a joyfulness of the season.”

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