With the holiday season set to fill our earbuds with a flesh blanket of sparkling seasonal Christmas music, singer/songwriter Jennifer Naegele is bringing a fresh concoction of new and traditional musical material to the stage of Frankenmuth’s Fischer Hall on Saturday, December 3rd, as she busily prepares the finishing touches for her 2nd annual family oriented fundraising event, Making Spirits Brighter - a very special evening showcasing some of the finest musicians in our region gathering together to demonstrate their genuine enthusiasm to celebrate the true spirit of giving, connection, and happiness that crowns this singular and special time of the year.
Honored for her talents as both a vocalist and songwriter as the recipient of numerous REVIEW Music Awards, last year Naegele released an album of original Christmas songs titled the Summer Snow Christmas Collection, which she showcased at The State Theatre in Bay City in the form of a holiday concert to benefit Girls on the Run - a non-profit charity that inspires kids to be joyful, healthy, and confident by using curriculum that incorporates running and walking and physical activities with trained volunteer coaches.
The release party was such a popular & critical success, earning the honor of being voted Best Musical Fundraising Project of the Year at this year’s 2022 REVEW Music Awards, that Jennifer decided to have a second go at it with hopes of branding the event as an annual tradition in the region.
“It was such an awesome surprise and honor to secure that award, because there are so many awesome fundraising events out there, so because we had such a blast last year we decided to try putting something different together this year and see if we can make it into something people look forward to every year, she reflects.
“This will be another fun, friendly, family event featuring some audience participation, another swinging appearance by Santa for a very special elf, and wonderful music from my incredible band, which includes the stellar talents of Loren Kranz, my husband Jake Priest, Andy Reed, and guitarist Scott VanDell. I feel so honored to be able to make music with these guys and promise we will feature something for everyone of all ages.”
Last year in addition to featuring sparkling and effervescent takes on traditional songs such as Joy to the World, which segued into a mash-up with the Three Dog Night hit of the same name; to Little Drummer Boy, which featured the surprising embrace of a kettle drum rippling below a heavenly articulated vocal chorus - the true magic comes from Jennifer’s original songs such as Noel, the Christmas Elf, Cottonwood Trees, This Time of Year, and Noisy Christmas Song. Think about it. When is the last time you’ve heard a new Christmas song, let alone an album featuring half a dozen of them?
“This year we’re mixing things up a little and running through many of the traditional songs again to take them to a new level,” continues Jen. “We’re also adding some new surprises as well. I’m releasing a new Christmas single the day after Thanksgiving called Happy Holidays, which is a fun-take on an old song that Andy Williams made popular. It’s such a blast singling live that I wanted to see what could be done in the studio with it.”
Jennifer hopes by moving this year’s fundraiser to Frankenmuth, she can assimilate some of that magical Mojo of Christmas-town and share that joy with different families throughout the region. “We loved doing the first show at The State Theatre,” she explains, “but wanted to experiment with a different area.”
“There’s a lot of tourism in Frankenmuth and people looking for something fun to do with family and friends, plus the dates that were available at the State could have worked, only we wanted to do the show earlier in the season. I’m always curious about trying something different, so we’ll see how it goes. The Fischer only holds around 150 people and we’re about half way thee right now, so I’d like to definitely encourage people to get their tickets early.”
As for the reason why Jennifer is so passionate about this event, it evolves from her historical memory of the holiday coupled with her fondness for Girls on the Run. “My memories from childhood of the Christmas holiday are marked by singing circles, and listening to records, and my Grandma and Uncle had a polka band and turned my elementary school into a Christmas concert; and all the magic, memories, and anticipation that marked those moments I wanted to try and create something like that again and bring people together with a sense of childhood joy and wonder and innocence. I want people to reach into their inner child and bring the kid along with them to this show and have a really enjoyable time.”
“Basically, when it comes to pastimes I have two loves: one love is music and the other is Girls on the Run, which is a non-profit charity that I’m deeply involved with. I’ve always thought it would be cool to weave the two together, so my goal was to release a joyous album and then have the proceeds benefit the charity.
For those unfamiliar with the Girls on the Run Charity, Jennifer outlines is objectives. “Girls on the Run is a positive youth development program They act as guides over a 10-week period during the school year and its designed to make girls a force of good in the community and forge healthy relationships. They focus on the 3rd to 8th grade window when girls confidence starts to decline and they tend to experience bullying during that period. Physical activity also starts to decline around the age of 10 for many girls.”
“They have a program for girls in 3rd-5th grade and 6th-8th grade and each lesson carries a different topic,” she continues. “We may start with a conversation of the day, such as how to stand up for yourself or others; and then we’ll weave a walk in creatively with the topic. I’ve been involved with this since 2011 and each year we average around 300 girls a year that we serve. We’ve added a spring session and have a fall session, and are also expanding from Saginaw Bay into Arenac, Tuscola, Huron, and Midland, which is a quite a large area.”
“The theme at this year’s show is ‘Love Your Elf’, instead of love yourself,” smiles Jennifer. “It sort of weaves the holiday feeling into the mission of Girls on the Run, so we’ll be showing an updated video and have been interviewing new girls and coaches from this season, so will be showing that as well. I’m really hoping this will highlight the program for people in the area who may not be familiar with it; and proceeds from the show will be benefitting their scholarship fund.”
“Fortunately, when covid hit we were able to transition programming with Girls on the Run and continue through the pandemic, but now that we’re back to our regular model serving girls in the Fall season and just added a Spring season during the pandemic that we’re keeping. This season we’re serving just over 200 girls and focusing on our Celebratory 5-K Reindeer Run on November 19th, which starts at The Castle Museum and is open to the community. And in the Spring we’re expanding to Midland, Clare & Gladwin counties as well, so will be serving about 200 more girls in a bigger area and adding to the body count!”
The ‘Making Spirits Brighter’ Christmas Holiday Extravaganza will take place on Saturday, December 3rd from 7:30 - 8:30 PM at Fischer Hall, 613 Main St., in Frankenmuth. Tickets are only $15.00 and are available on Eventbrite.com.
9th February, 2024