The Art Christmas Aggregation was formed in the summer of 1975. Art thought long and hard before making the final decision but by September of the same year, the first rehearsal of this new and exciting musical-theatre chorus was held. Art's first wife Connie was a very strong supporter and advisor to him, she sang in the chorus, played Molly Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and also the part of Adelaid in "Guys and Dolls". Connie was instrumental in starting and maintaining the Aggregation's costume department and served as costume mistress for the group for many years. Her dedication to and her hard work for the Aggregation will always be remembered fondly. In the early development years of The Art Christmas Aggregation, next to Art himself, Connie's love for musical-theatre and her dedication to community service was the main reason for the outstanding success of this new cultural addition to Sarnia-Lambton.
The Art Christmas Aggregation was fast becoming the principal musical-theatre group in the community. Productions of very high calibre were being performed twice a year and thousands of citizens were being entertained by this outstanding musical organization.
Over the years it is estimated that well over 100,000 people have attended one of the many Aggregation performances. Children who came to the "Fantasmagorical" show are now bringing their kids to see this group in action.
As we have told you, entertaining was only one of the pursuits of Art and the members of the Aggregation. Serving the community in any way possible was just as important to everyone. Hospitals and many other community organizations received constant support from The Art Christmas Aggregation. There were times when the group's members were out three and four times a month, on top of their rehearsals, entertaining at dinners, celebrations, and especially for the sick in hospital and the elderly at nursing homes in the Sarnia-Lambton community. The Aggregation also traveled a great deal putting on productions in other communities to raise needed funds for causes like the Childhood Cancer Research Foundation in London Ontario. From 1975 to 1990 The Art Christmas Aggregation has donated nearly 120,000 dollars to hospitals and charitable organizations in and around the city Sarnia. On top of the financial contributions, roughly 150,000 man hours of work has been provided to the citizens in Sarnia-Lambton by the remarkable volunteers of The Art Christmas Aggregation.
In 1990, the Aggregation was to celebrate fifteen years of "singing and serving", and celebrate they did. During the regular season the group performed two free shows for the public in Sarnia-Lambton, one in the Winter and one in the Spring, and decided to take the second one on the road that summer. This was not to be just any concert tour....The Aggregation was "Britain Bound", and still another dream of Art's became a reality. He took four tons of sound equipment, lighting equipment, and sets, along with a full pit orchestra and a chorus of thirty singers on a concert tour of the British Isles, where he was born. This was a promise he made in 1975 when he first formed the Aggregation. Along with the singers and the orchestra came a whole contingency of lighting and sound technicians, ushers and a house manager, with many other men and women to assist with make-up, sets, costumes and of course backstage. While in Britain, the group perfomed three shows. They took the production to Scotland, Central England, and London. It was a short ten day tour but the fun and experiences will be remembered for a lifetime.
Since that first rehearsal in September of 1975, hundreds of Aggregation members have come and gone and many are sadly no longer with us but all who participated in any way with this organization did so for two similar reasons.....their love for musical-theatre AND their desire to serve the community where they lived.During the many years, The Art Christmas Aggregation has had three accompanists other than our present one, Wendy Christmas from London Ontario. The three were Arva McKenzie, Tim Houle and Laurie Landry. Laurie was only with us for one production and Tim remained our accompanist for many productions......BUT......Arva McKenzie......what can anyone say about Arva that hasn't already been said. Art Christmas has called her the consummate pianist and accompanist. She was an inspiration not only to him but to all of us who worked with her for those many years. Her contribution to the success of The Art Christmas Aggregation can not be measured in words BUT Art will never let anyone forget that without her at the piano and without her incredible contribution in so many other ways, the Aggregation would have never accomplished so much in such a short time. Art and all Aggregation members who knew Arva will always love her and thank her for all of her outstanding service, her remarkable
talent and her unselfish support over the years. The music itself, from the vocal to the orchestra, has always been the mainstay of The Art Christmas productions and the reason for the Aggregation's professional sound was due to the father and son team of Art and Jeff Christmas.Jeff has been our principal percussionist since he was tall enough to be seen behind his drum set. In recent years, Art's son Jeff has taken over from the 'Maestro' as orchestrator for The Art Christmas Aggregation. His beautiful arrangements and stylish perfomance have enhanced the overall musical presentation that our audiences have heard. In most recent years, Jeff also served as orchestra contractor, hiring the various musicians to play for all our shows. When it comes to professionalism and class, Jeff has always been the consumate musician and his advice in regards to all aspects of the musical content for our shows was second to none. Our orchestra was also enhanced by the tasteful and professional piano stylings of Jeff's wife Wendy. Wendy also played a huge roll in the successful outcome of the weekly rehearsals for the Aggregation singers.
There is one more person who must be singled out for her devotion to Art and The Aggregation and that is Art's wife Paula. Paula has served as producer of all Aggregation shows for more than ten years. In this position, she has not only been Art's assistant for all aspects of the productions and fund raising but maintained the vast library of music and assisted Art with musical direction and accompaniment for rehearsals which Art was unable to attend. Paula has taken part in the chorus since 1975 and has played numerous principal rolls in various shows. Her most memorable was the part of Calamity Jane a few years ago. It is obvious to all of us that much of the Aggregation's success is due to Paula's hard work and dedication.
All of us involved with The Art Christmas Aggregation would like to take this opportunity to thank the most important people of all......YOU......the folks who have made up our audiences over the years. Without you, none of the work of the Aggregation could have been done. The Art Chrismas Aggregation performed for the final time in the production "Sing, Sing, Sing" at Victoria Hall, Petrolia in June of 1998.
"I have no regrets" said Art Christmas, "Just wonderful memories of working with some wonderful and talented people over the years. Our productions and concerts were always the very best and most professional in our community and for that I am very proud of everyone who participated in any way with these performances".
"I would especially like to thank my entire family for their support over the years with many of my personal musical endeavours and the many projects of The Art Christmas Aggregation".
(April 9, 2002)