In collaboration with Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates, the show is the inspiration of Alice McAllister Tillman and features Alice along with her brothers, Dewayne, Peter, and Willie J. McAllister, Jr. – Once Upon A December Eve has become a wonderful holiday tradition in the Metropolitan Detroit Area.

Read full transcript

Will Glover Hey everyone, I’m Will Glover, thank you for joining me today.  I’m here with Alice McAllister Tilman, who’s the creator and feature artist, and Willie McAllister, who’s a music director for an annual event called Once Upon a December Eve.  Alice, Willie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Alice McAllister Tilman, Featured Artist, Once Upon a December Eve Thank you for having us.

Will Glover Absolutely.  So, we’re here to talk about an event that you guys have coming up, an event that you guys have been doing annually, and let’s just jump right into it.  What is the once upon a December Eve event?  Who started it?  When did this get started?  Give me a little bit of background on that?

Alice McAllister Tilman, Featured Artist, Once Upon a December Eve Well, sure, so Once Upon a December Eve grew out of a desire that I had to do a holiday presentation.  I was engaged by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to be a part of their home for the holidays annual holiday concert.  And I was asked to perform Once Upon a December Eve from the Disney movie Anastasia.  And I loved it so much, I went to my brothers who are all very, very musical.  Willie is an orchestral conductor and Dewayne is also a band conductor and singer, and Peter is a phenomenal percussionist and arranger.  So, I went to the brothers and I said, I have this idea and I think it would be something wonderful and we could do our favorite things.  So, this began in 2007, so we are in our 14th year of performing this Once Upon a December Eve.  So, they were on board and we’ve been moving forward ever since.  One incredible thing about it is we are all educators, retired educators, and so over the years we were able to include many of our students present and former, and we still have some of those wonderful students participating yearly.

Will Glover Willie with covid being the elephant in the room with nearly everything that everyone’s doing.  How has that challenge been for putting on this event; for doing what it is you have to do as a music director?  What have some of the challenges been and how do you overcome those?

Willie McAllister, Music Director, Once Upon a December Eve Well, one of the things that this has done is that it made us downsize the orchestra.  We usually perform with a chamber orchestra and background vocals, so it’s about 27 pieces, so we had to cut down to 12.  And the most challenging thing would be the rehearsals, not being able to rehearse in a regular schedule and then happening to rewrite parts for the instrumentation that we’re using.  Basically, we’re playing with the rhythm section, a harpist and a saxophone, trombone and a violinist.  So, those challenges trying to create the harmonies that will give some indication of the fullness of the chamber orchestra, so that’s been the biggest challenge.

Will Glover What are some of the pieces that we can expect to hear and see you perform this year?

Willie McAllister, Music Director, Once Upon a December Eve We start with a real hot opening medley that starts with our arrangement of Silver Bells, that actually moves from there into a transition as a took Once Upon a December.  And from there we transition, just move right into Won’t You Come a Christmasing, which is not a familiar carol or Christmas piece that’s done a lot.  It’s from the musical Merry Christmas with Love.  And we move from there into Sleigh Ride was written by one of my former all-city marching band students, who’s now to director of Morehouse College.

Will Glover  Oh, wow!

Willie McAllister, Music Director, Once Upon a December Eve And he wrote an arrangement, to Sleigh Ride for a big band that we used to adapt to the instrumentation that we have.  And then we actually do one of the themes which is My Favorite Things.  Which is arranged and written by Alice and myself and Peter, and it was scored by one of our former students.  And then we move into, Peanuts Charlie Brown Christmas theme, which is Christmas Time is Here, so that’s the opening melody, it’s really hot.  It’s about 18 minutes of nonstop music in action.

Alice McAllister Tilman, Featured Artist, Once Upon a December Eve  This year, unlike any other, has been so difficult for everyone.  We believe in the wonderful powers of music.  One of them includes to uplift, so I believe that this is the most important time to offer music that would help to bring just a bit of happiness, peace, joy, fun to all of those who are able to participate.

Willie McAllister, Music Director, Once Upon a December Eve  Music is deemed a universal language.  Music reaches out and touches people in every aspect of society.  Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter the race, the creed, the nationality of it, music touches it all.  But then, you know, I’m reminded of Proverbs that says, a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.  Music creates a merry heart and delivers a prescription that medicine takes people to another level.  It allows them to escape the boundaries that they may be confined to right now.  Dealing with hard times of dealing with the covid, dealing with isolation.  Music can lift those barriers, can move those barriers, and allow people, we can take and transform them from a state to where they are now, to another section of the world.  And to a feeling or most more peaceful and exciting atmosphere.  That’s why it’s important that we need to do this.

Will Glover  Where can we direct them to go to participate?  How can we how can people access this once upon a December Eve event that you guys are putting up?

Alice McAllister Tilman, Featured Artist, Once Upon a December Eve  Well, you can visit, from there you’ll find everything you need to register.  You can also visit Great Lakes Performing Arts Associates website and you will find everything you need there to register as well.  And I neglected to say that Ken Fisher, formerly of the University Musical Society, will be our emcee.

Will Glover  Oh wow!  So, there’s a lot to look forward to; it’s easy to get to.  I’m excited, I’ll definitely be tuning in.  I can’t thank you guys enough for taking the time to talk to me, and again, I really look forward to seeing what you guys have in store for us this year.

Alice McAllister Tilman, Featured Artist, Once Upon a December Eve Well, thank you so much, and we look forward to the livestream and the magic that we’re going to make.