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'Winter Soulstice' explores seasonal sounds, welcomes audience participation

This Christmas, head to Carysbrook Performing Arts Center for a concert that includes “This Christmas.”

Horace Scruggs will be leading “Winter Soulstice: The Soulful Side of the Yuletide” at 7 p.m. Saturday. The concert, presented by Fluvanna County Arts Council, steps away from the holiday program routine with a collection of songs, spirituals and smooth jazz reflecting African American traditions.

“I think it’s important to do something different,” said Scruggs, a multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor and music educator who served as a choral director for 35 years. “It’s music that comes from the African American tradition.”

“This Christmas,” a classic released by Donny Hathaway in 1970, will be among the selections, as will the spiritual “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” Listeners also can expect carols, such as “Silent Night,” and secular fare, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Scruggs will be taking the stage at Carysbrook with Precious Anderson-Bland, Travis Smith, Wilbert Harris and Greg Brown. Scruggs said that two of the performers —vocalist Anderson-Brown and keyboardist Smith — are former students of his.

“It’s good to see them using their skills,” he said. “Both of them were music majors at Virginia State [University].”

Together, the musicians will be bringing smooth jazz, rhythm and blues and gospel influences to familiar fare. Keep an ear out for some original works as well.

As a way to help bring audience members back to Carysbrook after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered performance venues everywhere, the arts council decided last year to keep ticket prices at $5. The pricing policy has been so popular that organizers kept it this season as well. Scruggs said the low ticket price makes it easier for entire families to attend.

If you have family members who don’t want to sit still during an appealing concert — or if you happen to be that family member — get ready for an evening of refreshing informality. Want to sing along? You’re welcome to do so. Sitting still and being solemn are not required.

“We hope to have people just singing along with us. It’s a concert that’s a little more approachable,” Scruggs said. “If you know the words, please jump right in.”

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance at They also can be picked up at the door. For details, email or go to


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