(Vocalist Amanda Batcher coming home to sing with the Tidewater Winds)
By Jim Roberts
John Brewington got his Christmas wish back in August—when Amanda Batcher agreed to sing at the Tidewater Winds’ upcoming holiday concert.
Brewington is the musical director for the Sousa-style concert band, which comprises 65 woodwind, brass and percussion musicians from across Hampton Roads. Batcher is a Virginia Beach native and Old Dominion University graduate who has worked as a singer and actor in New York and Chicago. She now lives in Charlotte and works full time as a voice teacher and model.
Brewington tried “for years” to connect with Batcher when she was in town to visit her family.
“Our schedules just would never line up,” he said. “She was always flying in at odd times or flying out before we could meet up. This year, all the planets aligned. I said, ‘OK, let’s commit. You commit to me. I’m committing to you.’ And we developed a program.”
The “Winter Winds” concert will feature Batcher, a lyric soprano, on three songs, starting with Sara Bareilles’ “Love Is Christmas.”
“I heard it for the first time last year, and it was love at first listen,” Batcher said. “The message is one that I need to hear daily. It’s basically reminding me what love is and what Christmas is and what actually matters: being grateful for all the simple things in life. … It’s a little anthem that’s keeping me grounded in the holiday spirit. I absolutely love it, and I’m so, so ridiculously excited to sing it with the band.”
She will also perform Michael Mott’s “Christmas, Will You Stay?”
“This is another one with a great message,” Batcher said. “It’s about how good many of us feel in the holiday season—and what if we could remember those things throughout the year? So kindness and laughter and generosity and magic and wonder and all those things.”
The third song is the beloved holiday standard, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“It might be my lifelong favorite Christmas song,” she said. “I think I could probably sing it every year for the next 90 years and still love it just as much. I’ve performed it before, but I have a feeling doing it with Tidewater Winds, it’ll feel like the first time I’ve ever done it.”
The two-hour program will also feature two pieces by Stephen Melillo, an award-winning composer who lives in Smithfield, and Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” arranged by Robert W. Smith, the prolific American composer who died in September.
“I want to do this piece and dedicate it to him and his memory,” Brewington said, “and just to the warm feeling that he has provided so many musicians throughout the years.”
For Batcher, the concert is an opportunity to reconnect with her singing roots.
“Even though I’m teaching singing, I haven’t been making music myself with other people,” she explained. “I sing all the time in my home, but I haven’t prioritized making music with other people for other people. When I started to think about the beautiful music that the Tidewater Winds creates, I realized that I wanted to make that a priority—that it would be such a joyful, rich experience to do and that I would love it so much that I needed to just make it work with my other jobs.”
It was also an excuse to get a head start on Christmas shopping—for herself.
“The most important thing, of course, is buying a dress,” she said. “I bought an absolutely fantastic gown that I’m so excited to wear. … Come see my dress!”
The Tidewater Winds will host “Winter Winds” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach. General admission tickets are $25; student tickets are $15. For tickets and more information, visit sandlercenter.org.