The Christmas Story is told through their songs catches you by surprise. doesn't surprise you in the least.

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You are walking through a mall...or sitting in an office somewhere...when you suddenly realize that you are listening to a Christmas song.

With each year that circles by us, it seems that Christmas has been pulled further and further out of place. The 'Holiday Season', along with all of the not-so-subtle expectations that our consumer society attaches to it; can overwhelm us long before Christmas Day actually arrives. Consequently, many ' tune out'...and refuse to hear. Others find themselves humming along. And for those whose circumstances have left them less than 'merry'...the melodies that once might have made them leave them in tears.

Moreover, amid the wild clamoring of what has become the 'seasonal soundtrack'...the true message of Christmas is seldom heard. Fortunately, for those blessed to live in this area...the Eli Barsi Christmas Concert offers a way to relax and really HEAR those 'glad tidings' again. As a result, on December 2nd and 3rd, a capacity crowd gathered together at the Kennedy Community Hall to take part in what has become a Christmas tradition.

For Eli, the annual concert in her hometown is a chance to reconnect with those things that are most dear...and familiar.

“I have made a living making music for 31 years now. I feel the same way about it now that I did when I first began making music and sharing it. It's not really about me. It's about the people who are listening to me, and making a difference to them. I like to offer something for everyone and share some old favorites and familiar songs. But, the most important part of Christmas for me and my family...the reason why we the Christ Child. Sharing the love of the Lord through spiritual or positive music and lifting people up is very important to me. I feel very fortunate to be blessed with the gift of music, and I pray that I am using it properly.”

Eli's special guests this year were the Kelly family from Rocanville. The Kelly family features members from three generations...with mom Delta...brothers Brian, Anthony and Blake...and their children...Jessica (22), Marie (20), Olivia (17), Vivian (15), Megan (12) and Kaleb (9). The three brothers remained onstage throughout most of their portion of the concert...with various other members joining in on different numbers...and a few numbers that featured the entire family.

The Kellys delighted their audience with rich harmonies...and a variety of songs that are NOT as commonly heard in shopping malls (some of which were original songs written by Anthony – who has also collaborated in writing songs with many people including: Eli Barsi...Donny Parenteau and Alex Runions). Anthony says that the family has literally spent a lifetime performing together.

“We started singing together with our mom and dad as very young boys. I remember my younger brother Patrick singing with us when he could barely talk! My father came from a musical family. He played guitar with his father and brother for old time dances for years. Our mother also came from a musical family. She and her siblings all learned to play piano from their mother, and Mom also sang for community events. Once she and Dad got married, she learned to sing to guitar accompaniment and they began to perform together. As the kids (and grand-kids) came along...I guess it was inevitable that we would all join in.”

The Kelly Family has done 4-5 performances of 'The Kelly Family Christmas Show' each year for over 15 years. The group has performed in various communities throughout Southeastern Saskatchewan, including Forget, Wawota, Moosomin and Rocanville. Anthony notes that this show too...has become a much loved tradition for many.

“Many of the same people keep coming back year after year. The show remains the same, but the message that we have gotten is that people don't care about that. They 'get ready' for Christmas by coming and listening to us. Our show has always mostly included songs that some way...the Bethlehem story. Our parents raised us as active Christians who understand how the birth of Christ is the most important part of this season...and I think that's why it's my favorite time of the year still!”

Eli notes that the new year will hold some exciting new opportunities for her and husband John Cunningham.

“2017 starts off with travel to Germany for a 25 date tour. This will be a first for both John and I, so we are both really excited about this! We are starting to book up the rest of the year as well...with continued shows in Canada and the United States...along with a couple of new CD releases later in the year.”

Amid a cacophony of 'festive music' that often seems more a celebration of the 'best bargain' than anything else...Eli Barsi's concert offers a chance to truly reconnect with Christmas. As Eli says,

“The biggest 'awards' I've received during my career have not been the trophies and statues, but the kind comments of people telling me that my music has made a difference to them in some way...brought them closer to the Lord...and connected them with family. What comes from the heart...reaches the heart...

...and a wonderful life is yours when you know the Christ of Christmas.”

© Kipling Citizen

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