Annual Christmas telethon helping spread holiday cheer

Arts & Entertainment Community

PICTOU – All systems are go for the Pictou County Christmas Fund telethon set to take place this weekend.

The annual event is being held Sunday, November 27 at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre from 1 through to 7 p.m..

In it’s 42nd year, the fund is preparing to provide food gift cards for families in need this holiday season. The telethon will be aired live on both EastLink TV and East Coast FM radio.
Lots of local entertainers are lined up and waiting to give their talents so that others may enjoy a Christmas dinner.

“We have some local entertainment throughout the day as well as a few surprises,” said Debbie VanSickle, chair.

Among the scheduled performers are:

Brian and Brenda Bowden have been involved in music most of their lives, beginning in church. They have been  involved in many different choral groups and have sung in various communities in Pictou County and beyond. They are always willing to share their music when invited.

Fiddler Amelia Parker, 11, began taking lessons with Fleur Mainville when she was 6. She can often be found  playing at the New Glasgow Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and for local variety concerts and other events around the county and beyond. She also enjoys highland and step dancing.

The Carillon Singers are an ensemble of professional and amateur female musicians, under the direction of Vivi Chediac with pianist Karen Crowley. Their unique blend of voices give life to songs in many styles, eras and in languages that span the globe. They have performed in many venues throughout Pictou County, the Maritimes and beyond. They have had the privilege of singing under the direction of internationally renowned conductors, including Stephen Hatfield. The Carillons Singers have been performing for more than 20 years.

Crystal Mann is a Pictou County singer/songwriter who draws inspiration from everyday life.  For her, music is deep and meaningful; her original songs are heartfelt and moving.  Mann’s live performances are expressive and reveal her full range of singing styles – folk, maritime, country, rock and more.  Whether leading her own group, performing solo or collaborating with her peers, she puts her heart and soul into every show.

Three students of Janet Goguen Proudfoot will be performing together: Mariam Ibrahim has been playing guitar for four years. She loves the beach and the sun. She’s very artistic and draws portraits. She enjoys playing bass and ukulele. Kate Addison is a Grade 11 student at North Nova Education Centre. She has been singing and playing the guitar for three years. Yixie Tang (Tom) is an international student from China now studying at Northumberland Regional High School. He has been playing guitar for three years.

Brother/sister duo Jack Higdon and Sarah Higdon. Jack is in Grade 6 at A.G. Baillie school. He started playing guitar at age six. His favourite guitar player is Eric Clapton. He also enjoys hockey, curling and performing in school plays.  Sarah is in Grade 9 at North Nova. She plays piano and enjoys singing. She is involved with figure skating, soccer and enjoys playing the saxophone and French horn in her school bands.

Lacey Morrell is a singer-songwriter from Pictou County. Born in Stellarton, she grew up in a large, musical family singing Irish folk songs at family gatherings. At the age of five, her parents enrolled her in piano lessons and she continued for 12 years, studying the Canadian Royal Conservatory curriculum. She began writing and composing songs at an early age, using her writing as an outlet for processing all that she experienced during her life. She released her first album in 2007 titled Sing to the Heavens. Her first taste of recording, this album consisted of two tracks, vocals and piano. In the summer of 2015, she contacted musician and producer J.P. Cormier and they began recording an album together. This past May, she released her first professionally-recorded album, Heartland. Since then she has been sharing her music with a variety of audiences and continuing to look for inspiration in everyday life.

Layne Greene was born and raised in rural Blue Mountain.  Fascinated by sound from a young age, it came as no surprise when he began writing and recording music. Backed by drummer Alex Lank and guitarist Bryan MacDonald, Greene entered the studio in June 2014 to record his first album,  Everywhere Around Here, produced by Dale Murray and featuring appearances by Christina Martin and Fleur Mainville.

Melange is comprised of  Jim Craig on five-string banjo; his wife, Nancy, on standup bass; Dave Wakely, harmonica; and George Spaulding on vocals and  guitar. They’ve played off and on for several years at seniors homes, gospel concerts and the Christmas Fund Telethon. They have all played with different groups, hence the name Melange, from the French word for mixture.

Set Free, a group of friends who form the praise and worship team for Maranatha Bible Church in New Glasgow, began playing together in 2013. Guitar player Jeff Stearns leads the group in a wide range of contemporary Christian music. Jamie Spaulding adds depth and richness to the group through his skill on both acoustic and electric guitar. Sara Green brings harmonies with rich vocals that add depth to the music. The newest and youngest member, Sophie Gerrior, can lead with the melody, or find a rich harmony that compliments the entire group. Bill and Stephanie Forsythe round out the group with Stephanie providing vocals and percussion and Bill filling in backup vocals. Set Free can be found doing what they love several Sundays a month at Maranatha Bible Church.

John ‘Spyder’ Macdonald is a prominent figure in Pictou County’s vibrant music scene. Over his 30 years in the business, Spyder and brother Al have captured much of the area’s history in song. Spyder also hosts a radio program called “Spyder’s Web” on 94.1 East Coast FM.
Stephen LeBlanc and Brandon Falconer  are an uncle and nephew duo from Pictou County.  Stephen played with Pictou County rock group Natural Selection in the late 90s early 2000, as well as acoustic shows. Brandon is a talented guitar player who plays a lot with his church.
United Spirit is a contemporary Christian group from Pictou County.  They were first brought together in 2015. With a vision that started out as a social gathering, they quickly turned into a thriving music ministry.  Based out of Freedom Bible Church in Sutherland’s River,  this group of talented musicians wish to share God’s word through music.

Working Class Band is comprised of seven people. Hugh Clarke was born and raised in Barbados so he didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to loving music. Calypso and reggae have a huge influence on Working Class, and might just be in large part due to the fact that Clarke was one of the founding members of the band in 1978. Paul Lowe picked up his first guitar when he was 14 years old and it was serious business from that point on. He’s done it all, be it teaching, recording, touring, backing up Canadian country musician George Canyon, or just being a young gun on the scene during the early days of the ECMAs (with his old band Counterpoint). Jamie Sparks’  career began early as he travelled across the province to various Baptist churches, singing gospel music with his family. Soon playing a variety of genres with different bands around Halifax, Sparks was hungry for a better understanding of the entire industry, so he started his own production company, Smash Track Productions, which had him touring across Canada and the United States. Greg Carter is the founder, conductor and lead alto saxophonist with the Juno-nominated Maritime Jazz Orchestra. He is an associate professor of music at St. F.X. University.  Dave Pos’ passion for music led him to a long career of working with students, both as a teacher and as a school band director. Pos keeps himself busy  by playing piano for diners at Liscombe Lodge, sacred music for Pictou United Church and gigging regularly with Working Class. When Brian Steeves was three years old he encountered his first snare drummer in a marching band and was hooked.   One of the founding members of the original band during the 70s, Steeves says a main reason for reuniting was so they could get down and funky, playing the music they’ve always loved. Kenny Stewart’s love of music was instilled via the traditional Irish and Scottish tunes which played constantly throughout his childhood home. Over the years he was soundman for a variety of local bands, while also playing in his share of maritime groups.

The goal for the telethon is  $80,000.  VanSickle says last year, the fund was able to help more than 1,400 local families by providing a Christmas dinner.

Pledges can be honoured at The Advocate office, The News, East Coast FM or any bank or credit union in the county.


Members of the Pictou County Christmas Fund prepare for the 42nd annual event taking place today, from 1 to 7 p.m. at the deCoste Entertainment Centre.

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