Concert Band Director Mike Lamade, Chorus Director Ellen Whitten
Concert Band Director Mike Lamade, Chorus Director Ellen Whitten
As BIG ARTS prepares to celebrate its 40th year in 2019 by “Celebrating the Artist in All of Us,” two great ways of doing just that are coming a bit early, in fact, just in time for the holidays.

Two groups of local artists who get together for the sheer joy of music will share that gift Dec. 8 and Dec. 12, when the BIG ARTS Concert Band and Chorus, respectively, give their holiday concerts.

Mike Lamade is music director and conductor for the 50-piece concert band of mostly part-time residents, and although it may seem to be a departure for this former director of high school bands in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he said it is not. “There is no difference — music is the connecting factor, regardless of age, race, nationality or religion — music is truly the universal language,”he said. The artist is indeed in all of us.

Members come from all over Southwest Florida to Sanibel to practice at Saint Michaels and All Angels Episcopal Church on Mondays from October through March. While some are islanders, plenty of others come from Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres, North Fort Myers and Pine Island.

Concert-goers can expect to hear familiar Christmas carols as well as a Rachmaninoff hymn, “Christmas Pipes,” ‘Festive Sounds of Hanukkah,” and a sing-along, plus vocal, piano and trumpet solos and other songs.

Another BIG ARTS group that whose members gather purely for the joy of music is the BIG AETS Chorus.

“Chorus is offered as a class in the spring and fall,” said director Ellen Whitten. “It’s open to anyone who has a desire to sing. It’s a fun group. These folks love to sing.”

As the ultimate proof that there is an artist in all of us, there are no auditions for BIG ARTS Choir. They aren’t needed. As folk musician Pete Seeger knew and proved time and again: Not everyone can sing on key, but all crowds can. Something magical happens when many people raise their voices together.

For the holiday concert, they’ll sing carols from around the world, Whitten said. One is from Africa, one is a Spanish carol, one is from Britain and one Norway. A few are Hanukkah songs, Whitten added. In addition this year, the group will sing a Thanksgiving song by Aaron Copland, titled “The Promise of Living.” Originally from the lesser known opera “Tender Land,” it calls for four-hand accompaniment. Pianists Richard Mattern and Erik Entwistle will do the honors.

In addition, Entwistle has composed a special holiday song for the occasion, titled “Sanibel Under Snow.”

“It’s very cute,” Whitten said. “It starts out in a minor key as the snow is swirling and whirling around, and switches to a major key as everyone decides they can go skating on Ding Darling pond.” The holiday band concert Dec. 8 begins at 7 p.m. The holiday chorus concert Dec. 12 also begins at 7 p.m. Each show is in Schein Hall, 900 Dunlap Road, Sanibel. For tickets, go to