Holiday high notes in Aurora

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Bunches of holly and mistletoe have a quirky way of acting as olive branches during this time of the year, when illuminated icicles dangle from suburban gutters and mailboxes brim with greetings from friends and family near and far.

Hopefully that’s not too Kevin McAllister for you.

But, if you have some semblance of a soul and believe that the twilight of each year is in fact a time to be spent in the company of those you don’t often see, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to celebrate that notion than at an event taking place in the most eastern reaches of Aurora on Dec. 7.

Equipped with a massive performance space, for the second consecutive year leaders from Highpoint Church are teaming up with the Aurora Symphony Orchestra to present a holiday concert to benefit local nonprofit Aurora Warms the Night, which provides shelter and aid for the homeless on frigid winter nights.

“We’re trying to build bridges between urban and suburban Aurora,” said Gene Roncone, lead Pastor at Highpoint. “We’re really trying to educate our own city about homeless in general, because a lot of people support homeless initiatives in Denver, but they’re not even aware of the gravity of the situation right in our own city.”

Aurora Symphony Orchestra – Holiday Benefit Concert

3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Dec. 7.

Highpoint Church
6450 S. Southlands Pkwy.

Free. Donations suggested.

Initiated last year, the partnership between the three organizations was a natural fit through a serendipitous sequence of circumstances. Boasting an 800-seat auditorium, Highpoint constructed their massive new facility near Southlands mall in 2012 with the intent of creating a space meant to be shared by various community entities.

“We hired architects that designed community centers, not churches because we really wanted to build bridges among the community,” Roncone said.

Lacking an official performance space in Aurora, the ASO jumped on the opportunity to partner with Highpoint and use their auditorium upon its opening. However, Roncone, who also serves on the board for Aurora Warms The Night, had one stipulation for the group of local musicians.

“We agreed to let the symphony use our stage fives times a year, but we said ‘we don’t want money for rent, we want you to help us help the homeless,’” he said.

Since then, the church has provided the venue, the conductor’s wand the entertainment and the donations of patrons the backbone of this burgeoning holiday tradition.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to do something for such a noble cause in the community, thanks to the support and partnership of Highpoint Church,” said Norman Gamboa, conductor of the ASO.

Only in his second year as conductor, Gamboa spoke highly not only of the partnership between the symphony and the church, but also of the church’s performance space, touting its capabilities for a group like the ASO.

“The facilities are very accommodating for a symphony orchestra, it seats a large number of people in the audience,” he said. “It also works quite nice in terms of acoustics and the orchestra can be seen or heard well from every seat.”

New this year, the Aurora Singers and director James Laguana will be accompanying the orchestra on some selections including the traditional audience sing-along and the popular “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” Apart from that, the pieces performed throughout the two-hour performance will be an assortment of Christmas-themed pieces, according to Gamboa.

Last year, Highpoint raised about $10,000 for the Aurora homeless shelter program, a number Roncone hopes to best this year.

“The key thing we like people to remember are that there are a lot of needs in our city and no one else is going to help our city other than us, the citizens of Aurora,” he said.

Donations go directly toward funding resources such as food, hygiene products, veteran services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, as well as motel vouchers, which the organization provides to those in need of a warm place to sleep when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. In 2013, the nonprofit provided 2,520 nights of shelter to 572 people. In the past eight years, Aurora Warms the Night has offered more than 15,000 nights of shelter.

An ensemble from the symphony will also be performing at Highpoint on Dec. 14 as a part of the church’s Carols by Candlelight program, which was so popular in its inaugural year, Rocone had to split the event into two separate performances to ensure there is enough space to accommodate the crowd.

“The carol sing is kind of a retro thing, like a variety show you might have seen on TV in the ‘70s,” he said.