It’s a metro Detroit holiday tradition dating back to 2007 — Alice McAllister Tillman’s “Once Upon A December Eve” performance returns, in partnership with the Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates, to the Garden Theater at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12 or live streamed online. As an experienced vocalist in a range of styles, Tillman will be seen performing classical, jazz, blues, spiritual and pop holiday arrangements with help from her three brothers and a 20-piece orchestra.

One Detroit’s Bill Kubota caught up with Tillman to discuss her musical upbringing with her family, how the holiday tradition started, and what viewers can expect from this year’s show.

Full Transcript: 

(Singing) Do you remember me, I sat upon your knee…

Alice McAllister Tillman, Featured Artist, Once Upon A December Eve: Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I remember as a child, my mom taking us down to the old Hudson’s building on Woodward and we would go to that Santa’s shop, and it was such a magical time for me and a magical time for my siblings. We all sang together. I do the show with Willie, DeWayne and Peter, but we have four sisters as well. So back in the day, we were the McAllister singers. We sang Christian music and did lots and lots of our singing in the church and local churches in Detroit, around the state and some in other states as well.

(Singing) These are a few of my favorite things…

Alice McAllister Tillman: “My Favorite Things” is one of the pieces that we do. It’s a bluesy, jazzy, orchestrated arrangement that I love to sing.

(Singing) Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things…

Alice McAllister Tillman: I am classically trained but have lots of experience in other genres. This arrangement is a collaboration between myself and my brothers. And then we have wonderful instrumentalists who solo during this piece as well.

(Musical instruments playing arrangement for “My Favorite Things”)

Alice McAllister Tillman: So “Once Upon A December Eve” came out of an engagement that I had with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. They invited me to participate in their Home for the Holidays concert series and ask that I would sing “Once Upon a December” from the Disney movie “Anastasia.” And after that engagement, I went to my incredibly talented brothers and said ‘this is what I’d like to do. Let’s start playing.’ And “Once Upon A December Eve” was born out of that. That first show was in 2007. So it has really become a holiday tradition here in the Metro Detroit area.

(Singing) We snuggle close together like two birds of a feather would be…

Alice McAllister Tillman: Last year, we streamed the concert live from the Stone Chalet in Ann Arbor in collaboration with Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates. This year, we’re going to offer a hybrid of that program in-person at the Garden Theater as well as livestream if you choose that option. There are things that our folks tell us that they really love, and they really like, and they really want to hear. There are some things that are staples for us, like the Ave Maria. I’ve incorporated Ave Maria with harp. And a really good friend of mine, Maurice Draughn, accompanies me, and it’s just been a favorite; one that I’m not able to not do on the show. It’s so meaningful to me, the text is so involved and so beautiful.

(Singing) Ave Maria…

(Harp continues to play arrangement of “Ave Maria” till the end … applause)


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