HFC musicians and Karen Newman rocked the house in December
(Photo: Karen Newman, right, spent time with HFC students and other collaborators backstage during the Dec. 8 performance.)
Karen Newman rocked the house Dec. 8 at her annual “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue” at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn – her first time playing at this venue.
Newman was joined by the HFC Big Band and Blue Fusion, who helped usher in her inaugural performance in Dearborn which had a sizable – and enthusiastic – crowd of more than 700.
“These musicians are amazing. Amazing!” praised Newman, elegantly dressed in a red gown.
That’s quite a compliment, coming from someone who’s uniquely called the “Red Wings’ Own.” Newman has been singing the National Anthem at the Detroit Red Wings home games for nearly 30 years. She’s toured alongside the likes of renowned rock stars Bob Seger and Kid Rock, and has lent her vocal talents to many local and national commercial ad campaigns.
Newman kicked off the festivities by singing the Irving Berlin/Bing Crosby classic holiday song “White Christmas.” She went on to sing many old favorites, including “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” “My Favorite Things,” “Grown-Up Christmas List,” “Mary, Did You Know?” (her favorite Christmas song), an original song called “Christmas Morning,” and – of course – the concert’s titular song, “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue,” which celebrates Christmas in Detroit. Newman’s trademark song that became famous in 1999 and has become a regional holiday staple ever since.
“This is the kind of song you’d expect Bing Crosby and Andy Williams, perhaps the greatest Christmas singer of all time, to sing,” Newman told the audience.
Written by brothers Bob and Gordie Stewart, “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue” is featured on two of Newman’s holiday CDs: What Christmas Means to Me and Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue. It’s played throughout the holidays on Detroit airwaves and is included in the Detroit Thanksgiving Parade.
“I’ve been working with Bob on original music for years. We were working on Christmas cover songs, and Bob told me about this song. It just fit so perfectly for my voice. It brought back so many wonderful memories of celebrating Christmas in Detroit as a kid… It was just the right fit for me,” said Newman.
The song’s popularity inspired Newman’s holiday concert, which she’s been performing all over the Metro Detroit area for 17 years, including Detroit’s historic Fox Theatre – on Woodward Avenue, of course!
After singing the title song, Blue Fusion and its director G. Kevin Dewey joined their voices with Newman’s, singing well-known Christmas carols such as “Deck the Halls” with the Big Band – under the direction of Rick Goward – providing the music.
“HFC’s musicians made this show extra special,” said Newman. “It was such a pleasure playing alongside them. I was very impressed by the level of talent and professionalism they demonstrated. I can’t wait to do this again.”
Dewey echoed Newman’s sentiments.
“This was such a fun evening. My students had a wonderful time and will remember it for years to come,” he said. “Afterward, they spoke with Karen at length backstage. She was very generous with her time, talking about the music industry, answering questions, hearing them sing, laughing and joking with them, and posing for pictures. She’s a class act.”
While this may be the first time HFC musicians performed with Newman for her holiday concert, this is not their first collaboration. They’ve worked together five times before in the last year, including the Dearborn Symphony Gala in September at HFC.
“Each time we work together, I think, ‘We’ve got to do more of this,’” said Newman. “They’re amazing. Rick’s a riot to work with; he keeps things fun. I appreciate how he gives these musicians these golden opportunities to perform at an actual concert – you just can’t get that kind of experience in a classroom.”
HFC’s musicians will team up again with Newman for the “Big Band, Bop & Pop” Jan. 27, 2018 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center. And next year’s “Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue” holiday concert has already been booked – again, at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center – alongside the Big Band and Blue Fusion.
“I’m so proud of our musicians, who excelled themselves and put on a phenomenal show,” said Goward. “This was just a warm-up act. Next year, we plan to rock the house all the way down!”