Suite Inspiration’s 25th Anniversary Christmas Concert

Whatever  your Christmas Season entertainment plans may be, you’re not likely to see or hear anything quite like Suite Inspiration’s 25th Anniversary Christmas Concert, Sunday December 12.

With an awards-show theme, “The Suite Awards” will feature a Red Carpet complete with paparazzi and special guest performers. The program includes The Suite’s best pop, traditional and spiritual selections from each of its 24 previous Christmas shows, and Santa himself will announce the winner of a poll for the People’s Choice Award for best singalong song.

But perhaps the most distinctive feature of “The Suite Awards” concert will be the group itself, whose core members have made music together for more than 30 years.

The Suite describes itself as a Choral Band, with a percussionist and seven vocalists who accompany themselves on guitar, bass, violin and mandolin.

“We have a lot of voices to keep busy, so almost everything we do involves a lot of vocal harmony,” explained Judy Transue, the Suite’s producer. “We take pieces that were arranged for choirs and adapt them to our vocal ranges and add the guitars and other instrumentation.”

As it has in years past, the Suite’s program will cover an eclectic range of styles and genres, featuring selections from English madrigal, Irish music hall, Caribbean, Brazilian and Spanish, traditional, pop and spiritual Christmas music, running the spectrum from Angelic to a gospel funk finale of the Hallejuah Chorus.

Suite’s primary passion is to serve the parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and like most church-based groups, the Suite’s musicians are accomplished amateurs.  Transue, St. Elizabeth Ann Setons’ Music Ministry Director, started singing and playing guitar in her Ohio parish as a teenager, and her daughter, soprano/guitarist Nikki Transue, was in Absegami High School’s award-winning band. Alto/guitarist Suzanne Scari learned to sing and play guitar with St. Elizabeth’s youth guitar group back in the 80’s and her husband Mike is the band’s expert sound technician. Soprano/guitarist Maria Lawn began singing in her parish children’s choir and participated in numerous school and community choirs.

Matt Custer, the band’s Director, sang and played bass in a wedding band in and around Philly all through college. Tenor/lead guitarist Joe Mendillo teaches guitar and has played in area big bands for a number of years. Baritone/rhythm guitarist Les Keeper played in a number of local rock bands.  Percussionist Ed Gibbons was a national award-wining snare drummer in high school and honed his craft in Army bands since he was in his 20’s.

Special guests joining the Suite for this gala performance include acclaimed harpist Barbara Gallagher; pianist Regina Callaghan; Mike Senese, Suzanne’s nephew and music teacher at Mainland High School; William Lapenz III, vocalist and bassist; and flutist Dawn Ann Bambrick.

Another thing that makes the Suite unique is its dedication to charity.  Voluntary donations at its Christmas concerts and Lenten programs have raised over $15,000 for various charities over the years.  And since losing one of the group’s founding members to multiple myeloma six years ago, the group has contributed proceeds from all its concerts to the Maureen Senese Memorial Scholarship fund for children’s education.

“The Suite Awards” Christmas concert will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Sunday December 12 at 3:30 pm, and live-streamed on St. Elizabeth’s Facebook page. Holiday refreshments will be served in the parish hall following the concert. For more information, go to suiteinspiration.org, setonabsecon.org or contact  Judy Transue at 609-748-1583.