At a time when many small-town churches are permanently closing their doors, Huron Shores United Church in Grand Bend has re-opened theirs. After two years of meeting on Sunday mornings at the local Legion Hall while the church underwent extensive renovations, the congregation members are back in their new venue.
But it is no longer just a church. One of the goals for the addition and renovation of the building was to re-invent the former sanctuary as a concert hall. At the same time, the lower level fellowship hall has been renovated for meeting space and centre for community use.
The building at 25 Main Street, features a new entrance on Queens Avenue, which is completely accessible with an elevator. The area behind the church hosts outdoor services in summer, a long-standing tradition. Along with the visible changes, the building has a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as plumbing and electrical updates.
“Our building is now busy seven days a week, not just on Sunday mornings,” says Rev. Kate Crawford, the church’s minister, “We offer space to community groups and various organizations, and house activities such as meditation, knitting, sewing, right through to ukulele playing.”
To celebrate the new building and to invite the community to see it in action, “The Première Gala” is being hosted on Saturday, November 24. The event will showcase the new concert hall and fellowship hall. There are two options available: a lunch and concert at noon for $45 or a banquet and concert in the evening for $95. The prime rib or chicken pasta banquet, catered by FINE Restaurant, includes wine and all the trimmings. There will also be a live auction in the evening.
But the highlight of the day will be the two performances of the show “Seasons of Song” following the meals at 1:30 p.m.and 8:00 p.m. “We have some of the best young musical theatre performers on Canadian stages today,” says Crawford.
“Seasons of Song” features Broadway music and Christmas favourites. Thomas Alderson, who grew up in Lambton Shores, will return to perform. He is best known for his role in Toronto’s Kinky Boots, as well as several years of performing at Huron Country Playhouse in popular musicals such as Spamalot & Camelot! Most recently, Thomas has worked as an Assistant Director on several shows across Canada.
“I am thrilled to be back performing in this venue in Grand Bend,” says Alderson, “I was here in June 2016, just before the church closed for renovations. The plaster was falling off the ceiling, and it was deadly hot with no air conditioning.” Alderson offered to do a benefit concert for the church, which raised more than $4,000 when crowds packed the old pews. Now the pews have been replaced with comfortable chairs. “It’s fitting that Thomas, who sang in the last concert held here before we closed for two years, is now back to showcase our new facility,” adds Crawford.
Joining Alderson will be Lili Connor, a Jazzagal on TV’s hit show Schitt’s Creek. She is also well-known for her role as Mama Cass in the musical about The Mamas and The Papas. “As always, I am happy to have Lili performing with me – she was at the church fundraiser in 2016 and also at the beach concert with me last summer. Lili has an amazing voice and everyone loves her rendition of ‘Dream a Little Dream’,” says Alderson.
“I’m excited to be working with Alessandro Costantini again, after collaborating with him on ‘Carrie – The Musical’” says Alderson. Costantini has a powerful singing voice, and is Artistic Director of Yes Theatre in Sudbury. He starred as Marc Hall in Prom Queen at the Segal Centre, for which he was nominated as Montreal’s Outstanding Lead Performer.
Alexis Gordon is coming straight from Stratford Festival where she performed in this year’s very popular Coriolanus, The Tempest and Napoli Milionaria! She is best known as Stratford’s leading lady as street missionary Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls in 2017, Anne in A Little Night Music in 2016, and as Julie Jordan in Carousel in 2015. “Alexis is a star at Stratford Festival, and we are lucky she can join us between performances. She’s an amazing singer who makes it all look effortless,” Alderson adds. The singers will be accompanied by pianist Jonathan Corkal.
The Lambton Creative County Fund has contributed towards this concert, which in turn will provide funding for the Concert Hall renovations.
Tickets for the special events are available from Debbie Procter: (519) 238-2973, Carey Eddy: (519) 238-8566, Mary Alderson: (519) 933-0142, Lynne Desjardine: (519) 238-5220 or online at TicketScene: http://www.ticketscene.ca/series/653/