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Dec8ThuThe Maritime Division's annual Christmas concert series provides an entertaining evening and an opportunity to help people in need December 8, 2011 by Julia Hosking
Every year, the Christmas season includes familiar sights, sounds and smells. In Halifax, Saint John, Moncton, Sydney and Liverpool, one of those familiar sounds is the Stadacona Military Band of the Royal Canadian Navy at The Salvation Army's Beary Merry Christmas Concert.
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- Territorial News
From November 28 to December 12, six concerts are held as part of this annual event. The first two concerts were held in Halifax at the world-class Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Monday, November 28 and Tuesday, November 29. Similar events are scheduled for the other locations, also held in professional concert halls, some seating up to 1,000 guests (click here for dates and venues).
The “Beary Merry” concert name stems from its origins in 1997 when audiences would donate a teddy bear to The Salvation Army as part of their attendance. Today, audiences still adhere to this tradition, with other stuffed animals and toys also part of the mix.
The events all follow a similar format, with the Stadacona Military Band performing Christmas music and a representative from The Salvation Army offering a short Christmas message. In Halifax, Major Doug Hefford, divisional commander, spoke for a few minutes about what Christmas means to him. Many locations also have guest talent. For example, the Halifax concerts welcomed the Cantatrice Ensemble and in Sydney, Taylor Burton, a Salvationist, will bring a vocal and guitar solo.
“The concerts are an opportunity for The Salvation Army to raise awareness and collect toys for our hampers and other services while at the same time offering a high-quality Christmas concert at a reasonable price for families,” says Daniel Bonner, communications specialist, Maritime Division.
Given the partnership between The Salvation Army and the Stadacona Military Band, the audience is diverse. Military families, followers of the band, Salvation Army members, elderly, young families and members of the professional community invited by sponsors can all be found taking a seat at Beary Merry.
“When you mention the Beary Merry concert, people know exactly what you're talking about,” notes Major Brenda Bungay, director, community and family services, Halifax, of the concert series' reputation in the Maritime Division.
“There is definitely a lot of community recognition and people enjoy being able to come and donate a toy, knowing in two weeks it is going to be under a child's Christmas tree,” adds Bonner.
Teddy bears and toys are placed in a central location in the auditorium so people can see the community contribution. Before the concert commences, children receive hugs and high-fives from a big bear, while adults meet local community and family services workers who thank people for their donations.
“People's need for assistance from The Salvation Army at Christmas is great and the Beary Merry concerts are a big help to our work because even the smallest donation of a bear, stuffed animal or other toy can bring joy to a child,” says Major Bungay. Together, the two Halifax concerts collected more than 1,200 bears and toys. “Seeing kids receiving these toys makes Christmas what it is for me.