It all started with Christmas carols for construction workers putting the finishing touches on the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
That was 35 years ago and Spirit of Christmas is still going strong.
In fact, it quickly sells out every year. But if you don’t have a ticket, you won’t miss out. This year the Christmas tradition continues in the Concert Hall, as QPAC’s Digital Stage will stream the show for free on Christmas Eve, from 5pm to midnight, to accompany your festive celebrations at home.
Every year the show attracts a bevy of musical theatre stars and this year the concert features Brisbane’s very own Mary Poppins, Stefanie Jones, fresh from rave reviews for her national tour in the acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh production.
This Brisbane girl’s starry eyes first focused on the stage as a potential career at the tender age of seven when she took on the role of Young Eponine in Cameron Mackintosh’s 10th anniversary tour of Les Misérables. But right now, she is focused on more yuletide fare.
“I’m just so excited to do Spirit of Christmas at QPAC, its longest-running event,” Jones says. “I’ve always known about it and I’ve seen so many incredible performers at QPAC in Spirit of Christmas.
“I’ve been in the venue quite a few times when it’s on, so I’ve had the privilege of sitting in the Green Room and watching it on screen. I just think it always looks like such an incredible event. So to be asked this year is a bit of a pinch-me moment.”
While Jones is now based in Sydney for her musical theatre career, her Brisbane roots are strong, particularly at this time of year. She’s taking on the dual role of hosting and singing at this year’s concert – and she couldn’t be happier.
“I am a Queensland girl. I grew up inside that theatre, so it’s like coming home,” she says. “I just really love that opportunity to break that fourth wall and be with the audience and talk to the audience.
“This is such an open, shared event. To be able to host it and communicate with the kids who are going to be there, as well as some of our older audience members, it feels very special and just the perfect thing to do leading into Christmas.
“It’s nostalgic, which is why I think people keep coming back. It’s been on since the ’80s, and so we have people coming in who’ve been going since its inception. Now they’re bringing their children and grandchildren.”
With QPAC’s 40th anniversary in 2025 getting closer, chief executive John Kotzas says Spirit of Christmas becomes even more significant, particularly as it’s the only show that has been on every year since the centre opened.
“For me and the rest of the organisation, it’s a special exclamation that marks the end of the calendar year,” Kotzas says.
“People like the sense of connection and they like the sense of celebration. It began as a very ‘snowflake winter’ Christmas show, but we’ve gradually moved to a more Australian Christmas. So while we celebrate all the elements of Christmas, it’s closer to an Australian Christmas.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful concert. And in a way it’s church for people who don’t go to church – because what we try to do at this concert is make it inclusive, encompassing a collection of faiths.”
This year’s line up includes Marcus Corowa and Daniel Belle along with Cairns-based vocal quintet Sounds of AustraNesia, Queensland Youth Orchestra, the QPAC Chamber Choir and Voices of Birralee.
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