What started as an annual concert in the basement is now a much-anticipated local event that draws thousands and raises money for charity.
For nearly two decades, the Seibels have been holding a family Christmas concert every December—first as a way to share with relatives and neighbors, and now as a major production that has become a community tradition for the past several years.
The Seibels anticipate more than 2,000 attendees at a pair of concerts to be presented later this month at the high school performing arts center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
“It’s so much a God thing,” said Amy Seibel, noting that she, her husband Tom, and their children have never been the sort to promote themselves. “We thought it would fizzle out.”
“It’s still stunning,” agreed Lydia, the third-oldest child who remembers the first concert she gave with three sisters in the basement of the family home 18 years ago. Now, “we have people who say it doesn’t feel like Christmas” until they hear the Seibels perform.
According to Tom, as big as the concerts have become, they’ve never been the main thing. In fact, the children’s musical ability grew out of his and Amy’s homeschool program.
The Seibels encouraged each child to learn to play an instrument, not just to round out their education, but in order to more fully participate as members of a family and faith community.
He added he couldn’t help notice how well his children sang.
“They would stand and sing together and harmonize,” Tom recalled. “We thought, ‘They’re pretty good.”
The Seibels began performing at local nursing homes, partly as an outreach of the church where Tom pastors.
Others started to notice the Seibel family talent. As the family grew, so did the demand for hearing them.
All in the Family
Now, including the one on the way, the extended Seibel clan numbers an even 30. Tom and Amy have 12 children, four of whom are married to kids from other homeschooling families. (“It’s not a requirement,” Amy quipped. “That’s just the way it happened.”) And currently there are 11 grandchildren.
Among all these Seibels, according to the tally in the local newspaper, are “four violinists, three pianists, two cellists, two guitarists, one flutist and one harpist.”
This sprawling lineup explains in part why the venue for their annual concert kept changing. Past performance sites included a community center, another high school, and a local Roman Catholic church. In 2011, they moved to the arts center where this year’s concert will be staged.
The explosive growth has required additional support. The Seibels now rely on volunteers for the technical and administrative aspects of the show. For the past several years, they’ve also had to raise funds to help pay for what is now a somewhat pricey venture.
Through all these changes, however, two things haven’t changed: It’s still a family affair, and the concert is still free.
“As a homeschooling family with a lot of kids,” explained Amy, “we know a five-dollar ticket can keep a family from attending.”
Preparation for the concert begins in the summer. Amy selects several songs, which are then narrowed down after the family tries them the first time.
“We typically have at least one rehearsal in August,” said Lydia, “and then we do one rehearsal a week.”
Every member of the family will make at least one appearance on stage. The younger children usually perform in ensembles.
Upon reaching the teen years, a child prepares for his or her first solo.
“It’s a good musical experience, and very stretching,” said Lydia.
For this year’s concert the Seibels will perform about 20 songs, ranging from children’s numbers (with skits) to adult choral arrangements. As in the past, concert-goers will also be given the opportunity to donate to one of several charities the family supports. And to round out the evening, Tom will deliver a message based on the Christmas story.
Spoiler alert: It’s also about giving.
Photo Credit: Images courtesy of Seibel family.