Tens of thousands people will gather at the center of Indianapolis.
They’ll sing Christmas carols, greet Santa Claus and wait for the illumination of thousands of bulbs rising to the top of the Sailors and Soldiers Monument.
The Circle of Lights event has been a holiday must-see in central Indiana for more than 50 years. But performing at the festivities has become a tradition for a Johnson County church band as well.
The Mount Pleasant Christian Church worship and arts ministry will again serve as the house band for the Circle of Lights. They’ve provided the backing music for Indianapolis’ most popular holiday event during the past three years.
“It’s a thrill for the church to have the opportunity to be represented in the city like this,” said Brian Tabor, worship and arts pastor at Mount Pleasant. “It’s an honor that they keep asking us to come back.”
The band was approached by Indianapolis Downtown, which puts on the Circle of Lights, to perform at the ceremony in 2012. A representative from the organization saw the band play during services and thought it fit in providing the backing music for the television broadcast and live ceremony.
The Circle of Lights is unique in that it has to cater both to the thousands in attendance and those watching the show on TV.
As the house band, the Mount Pleasant group is responsible for playing between the rotating acts and performances scheduled throughout the ceremony. They have classic Christmas songs and worship carols ready as the TV broadcast goes to commercial and keeps the crowds entertained until the next performer is up.
The band’s 12 members play as Santa Claus arrives and put on a lively arrangement when the fireworks go off and the lights go on.
“We play lots of sacred Christmas songs and some fun secular songs as well,” Tabor said.
The first year was a shock, with the thousands of people crowding into Monument Circle. The band arrived at noon to set up that day, and even though the show didn’t start until that evening, enthusiastic families were already staking out their viewing areas.
“They had their chairs out and blankets ready for where they wanted to sit,” Tabor said. “There are some hardcore Circle of Lights fans out there.”
The headliner of this year’s performance will be Josh Kaufman, the Indianapolis native who won the most recent season of “The Voice.” The Mount Pleasant band will provide the backing music for him as he performs.
Tabor and his wife, Kim, went to IUPUI with him. They have worked together on musical projects in the past, contributing vocals or instrumentals to each other’s recordings.
“It’s a cool opportunity to play with him again,” Tabor said.
Circle of Lights
Who: Performance by Josh Kaufman, winner of “The Voice,” and selections from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Yuletide Celebration; music from the Mount Pleasant Christian Church worship and arts ministry.
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis
Cost: Free to attend
Broadcast: The performance will be shown live starting at 7 p.m. on WRTV-Channel 6. The lights go on about 7:50.