HUNTERSVILLE – The sound of Santa’s sleigh bells as he soars through the sky won’t be the only thing to listen for this holiday season.

The North Mecklenburg Community Chorus’ eight-member jazz ensemble, Left@25, will entertain listeners Dec. 7 at its annual “Swingin’ with Santa” performance.  

Featuring a segment where Santa will literally rock around a glowing Christmas tree, the family-friendly show will include a variety of familiar Christmas songs like “Winter Wonderland” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Instrumentalists on piano, drums and bass plan to accompany the vocalists, as well.

“I like a good challenge,” Ken Bennett, who’s sang with Left@25 for three years, said of the experience. “I also just like singing in a smaller group where we have a lot more camaraderie and relationships we can build with each other. It’s like a family of eight.”

The Charlotte native has participated in the larger chorus for a decade and said he's spent many hours practicing and preparing for this Christmas show.

“All of the songs are very upbeat and have unique arrangements,” said Daniela Sims, a spokeswoman for the group. “You feel like you want to dance all the time when you hear them.” 

Sims attended a music school in Romania until she was 15 years old. The limelight called to her from there, and she sang professionally in Europe and Japan, even appearing on international TV and radio shows.

“I grew up with music,” she said. “I have a degree in computer science, but I cannot give up music.”

The larger chorus – which now has about 50 people – was the brainchild of Belle Banks, a transplant from Philadelphia who moved to Huntersville during World War II. With the help of her husband, Dick, a movie and theater critic for The Charlotte Observer, she founded the group as a vocal class at Central Piedmont Community College in 1971.

Ready to accept more members, Sims said the chorus is a warm and inclusive place.

“All you need is to love to sing. We decided there’s no audition to join the main chorus,” she said.

In 2010, NMCC opened its doors as a nonprofit umbrella organization unaffiliated with the school and began Left@25. This move offered more flexibility, allowing the group the freedom to create new groups if needed.  

A children’s choir is a future dream when the budget allows for it, Sims said.

Chuck Masterson thrives off of perfecting his vocal abilities with the ensemble’s other members.

“The only way that you can learn is from being around people who’re better than you,” Masterson said. “In Left@25, they’re all very good at what they do, very good at their craft.”

Originally from Brooklyn, the Huntersville resident said he’s excited to finally be able to show his family and friends the fruits of his labor.

“My son, Jackson, is learning the guitar. My daughter, Olivia, can play piano and sing like an angel,” he said. “Music’s like a gift, and these people I sing with share their knowledge of music with me.” 


Want to go? The free Christmas concert will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at Huntersville United Methodist Church, 14005 Stumptown Road. Details: www.nmcchorus.org.