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A Night to Remember
Brach Thomson: Usually playing at least two keyboards at once. | Courtesy photo
The evening of Dec. 7 is a happening night in Bigfork and you’d be well advised to remember it.

It starts off with the parade. Not quite the grand spectacle of Bigfork’s July 4 parade, but a pleasant, homespun after-dark-with-lots-of-lights (in-the-icy-Northwest-clutching-hot-chocolate) parade. As Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bruce Solberg describes it, “It’s a parade made up of people who just want to show their Christmas spirit by being in a parade. Line up in the high school parking lot at 5:30 and we’ll parade down Grand and Electric Avenues starting at 6. There really isn’t a parade chairperson or a lot of organization, but Fire Chief Wayne Loeffler and I will be at the high school to get things rolling.”

So, want to be in a parade? This is your chance. No application, no judging, no prizes. Just you and the Spirit of Christmas. (Past, present, or future – your choice.)

And about the time the parade is over, at 7:30, the big night continues with Brach Thomson and his annual “Touch of Christmas” concert at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts. Brach, as most Bigfork residents know, is the Music Man behind many of the productions at the Center. During the summer, he’s the musical director for the Bigfork Summer Playhouse and during the winter, he’s the director of the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theater. But during this annual Touch of Christmas concert, Brach does much of the performing himself.

“Most of what I’ll play are arrangements I’ve done of popular Christmas carols,” Brach explains. “In my usual style, I’m surrounded by several keyboards. At any time I’m typically playing at least two of them. I think I’d most liken my style of sound to that of Mannheim Steamroller.”

Any original compositions? “I used to do some original melodies,” he says, “but I mostly do arrangements. I guess I’m used to it because, in the business I’m in, we’re always in need of arrangements.” And that business is? “Music theater. I grew up in theater. I started as Winthrop in The Music Man right here in Bigfork. That was in 1976. But I gravitated toward directing.” No recent acting work? “Well, there was that time when the Children’s Theater put on “Gold Fever.” We don’t have understudies so when the lead found himself in the hospital with gall stones on opening night, I found myself onstage.”

Brach will have at this concert, as his special guest, the Big Sky Classic Touch barbershop quartet. It’s probably worth mentioning that barbershop isn’t just a bunch of guys standing on the corner singing about girls. It’s a special style of unaccompanied vocal close harmony that spans a range of musical content, a style that this quartet well exemplifies. (Of course, when they’re not singing Christmas carols, they’re perfectly happy to stand on a corner and sing about girls.)

Brach will also be supported by performances of his children’s theater choirs. Vocal Vertigo is made up of fourth through eighth graders. BPCT Choir Number One is comprised of eighth through 12th graders. And his invitational choir, Five and Holding, will round out the cast. If you haven’t seen these choirs, expect a treat. And expect to watch, not just listen. These kids are actors who just happen to be singing in a choir. They won’t just stand still and sing.

“I should mention,” Brach adds a final note, “We expect folks may be cold from watching the parade. We’ll have hot chocolate with schnapps and hot buttered rum available. Just to chase the chill, of course.”
Works for me.

To recap, the parade starts at 6 p.m., or 5:30 if you’re in it. “Touch of Christmas” follows the parade at 7:30. Tickets, available at the door, are $8, with all proceeds benefitting the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theater.
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