Whether it’s walking through a Winter Wonderland or ringing Jingle Bells, it’s easy to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year through music.
Heartland Sings honor those holiday traditions by performing at the Allen County Courthouse each season for the group’s Spirit of Christmas concert. It has become a Fort Wayne favorite, not just because of the harmonies, but because of the unique venue.
Ashlee Bickley, an alto who’s been with Heartland Sings for about six years, says it provides a completely original sound.
“The acoustics in the courthouse are very ‘live.’ There’s all that marble and a lot of limestone and the sound just bounces off of it and rings through the whole venue,” Bickley explained. “With the dome overhead, that also creates an interesting acoustic space, so the sound kind of shoots up and bounces back down. The sound rings for several seconds after we’re done singing, so it kind of envelopes the audience. It’s just beautiful music in a beautiful space.”
“The music is truly all about the space, about the architecture there,” echoes Director of Marketing David Bobay. “It’s a lot of a cappella music done to exemplify all the cool acoustics that the space can provide, specifically what voices and vocal music can do in a place like that.”
For nearly two dozen years, Heartland Sings have been an outlet for talented musicians and a source of entertainment for audiences of all ages in about a 225-mile radius of Fort Wayne.
The ensemble is made up of nearly 30 vocal artists and a number of volunteers who come together to perform songs from all genres.
“We have people who are current students at Purdue Fort Wayne all the way up to school teachers and retirees in their 70s and beyond,” Bobay said.
This season’s shows are as varied as the artists who perform them. The first took place in November and was a nod to The Carpenters.
Upcoming shows include Karaoke Classic Live: Endless Love, Celtic Landscapes, and Karaoke Classic Live: The Beatles. The other two, Jingle Bell Jazz and The Spirit of Christmas, are designed to get audience members into the holiday spirit.
“It includes classics like ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Oh Holy Night,’ but also includes songs that aren’t quite as traditional,” Bobay said. “We like to throw in a few foreign language songs and even an original or two since we always have the artistry and the caliber to do something like that. We try to throw in a bit of unique music as well.”
“I love the Spirit of Christmas concert,” Bickley said, “because we sing beautiful arrangements of both common hymns that everyone knows like ‘Silent Night’ and ‘The First Noel,’ but also really nice choral pieces that are Christmas-oriented but you don’t hear all the time. It’s not a concert full of songs that are overplayed.”
There are three performances of The Spirit of Christmas that take place in the beautiful rotunda inside the Allen County Courthouse. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
Engaging the listener
“For this show, it’s just being able to share what we do with our community in such a unique way,” Bobay said. “Not just sit down and listen to the music, but to engage with something that’s really a local landmark.
“It’s designed to bring people to a place like that for a new reason. People don’t necessarily go to the courthouse for pleasant things, but to open up a landmark like that for something musical and affirming is exciting.”
This is the fifth year for the Christmas concerts, which have become somewhat of a tradition.
“We do see a lot of the same audiences year after year,” Bobay said. “They make it their holiday tradition. They can’t call it Christmas without it.”
“We do get our tried-and-true donors and fans who come to this concert,” Bickley said, “but we also attract various people in the community who just want an event to go to. People love it, so they return, but we also see a lot of new people.”