The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble :: Making the Season Bright

by Tim Parks

Rage Monthly

Sunday December 10, 2017

The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble brings over 30 years of experience and history with them, when they take the Parq West stage for their "Holiday Revue" on Saturday, December 16.

The 45-piece group, along with The Hillcrest Holiday Singers, will perform classic American standards from days gone by, sure to elicit feelings of joy with their swing versions of Christmas classics. Holiday Revue will elicit the comforting glow of nostalgia featuring a Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Rat Pack vibe to the holiday's festivities, helping to make the season shine just a little bit brighter.

The Rage Monthly spoke with concert producer Gary Poirier about how The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble came about, how it has sustained itself these many years and what audiences can look forward to by attending the show. First however, a brief history lesson on how The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble came about: "The band has been in existence since 1985," Poirier said. "It started out as The Finest City Freedom Band as a gay and lesbian marching and concert band."

The reason the band morphed into what it is today? It was born not only from a necessity for change, but through another motivating factor, as Poirier explained. "The apparent reason is we all got older and didn't want to march," he said with a chuckle. "We also wanted to be more inclusive to

the entire community as a whole. Our membership is mixed now, gay and straight. Some of our audience members have never had any contact with our community, so we kind of educate the audience that way."

The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble is a self-supporting program of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, so we wondered if there had been any challenges in keeping the not-for-profit organization going over the years. "When we started out, we were our own 501(c) 3 and now we're a program of The Center. That took place about 15 years ago," Poirier explained. "We have really good regular donors and then our concerts are also what keeps us solvent."

The Hillcrest Wind Ensemble, which Poirier described as "A musical ambassador to educate and to entertain the community as a whole," is once again ready to set the retro tone for the holidays. Nostalgia will be front and center on stage, as well as the various performers; be they playing instruments or those providing vocals to the lush arrangements. As to how the songs are selected for the concert and how they will be presented, Poirier gave us a quick run down on the process. "Our Musical Director John Winkelman, who has been our musical director for many years, it's his job to select the music and each concert has a different theme. This year it's 'the lighter side of Christmas.' It's going to have an old-time feel, featuring a

lot of music of the 1940s and 1950s, with Swing arrangements of Christmas classics and then a few other Big Band pieces thrown in."

Holiday music is as integral to Christmastime as Santa and his eight reindeer and Poirier indicated that there is a message being conveyed through the music... nostalgia for a simpler time. Something that will definitely aid in making this season brighter for audience members-because let's face it-2017 wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Poirier offered that music always provides an exquisite respite. "For one evening, the audience can escape to a simpler, less complicated time through fun jazz arrangements of classic Christmas favorites. Music is such an important part of this holiday. It helps one remember just how magical it is."

Hillcrest Wind Ensemble's Holiday Revue takes place on Saturday, December 16 at Parq West, 2557 3rd Avenue. For tickets and more information, call 619.692.2077 ext. 814 or go to

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