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Triple the joy: Bob Thompson's popular holiday program expands

Courtesy photo
Bob Thompson's popular "Joy to the World" will have shows in Elkins and Morgantown this year in addition to the annual production in Charleston.
Courtesy photo
New York-based Heather Masse is the guest vocalist this year.
WANT TO GO?"Joy to the World" with Bob Thompson and featuring Heather MasseWHERE: Culture Center TheaterWHEN: 8 p.m. ThursdayTICKETS: Advance $25, at the door $30INFO: Call 800-594-TIXX or visit wvpublic.org_____"Joy to the World" on the road
  • At Davis & Elkins College in Elkins at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets $10-$20. Call 304-637-1900 or 304-637-1254 or visit www.
  • At the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets $25-$35. Call 304-293-TIXX or visit
_____CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fans of piano man Bob Thompson's annual "Joy to the World" program have a little more to love about the holiday show this year. In addition to the regular Charleston performance tonight<co THURSDAY NIGHT > at the Culture Center, the Bob Thompson Unit will be performing "Joy to the World" on two additional nights in two other cities.Friday, they'll take the show to Davis & Elkins College Friday, and then Saturday, they'll go to the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown. Thompson said expanding the show to three nights just seemed like the right idea at the right time."We've been doing the show for so long here. Everyone has been enjoying it. We though maybe it was time to take it out to a wider audience."Now in its 21st year, "Joy to the World" has become a local holiday music fixture. The show frequently sells out days in advance of the performance. (According to Adam Harris, who took over producing the program after Linda McSparin retired, the Charleston show had around 100 tickets remaining as of Monday.)
Part of what keeps the show fresh is that each year Thompson brings in a new vocalist or guest performer. The guests help flavor the show with their own particular musical styles.This year, the guest is Heather Masse. She's possibly best known for her many appearances on NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion," but Thompson said the well-known comedy/variety show wasn't where he first heard the singer."I first heard her with Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio," he said. "I just loved her style, and then after that, I heard her perform with the Wailing Jennies -- just a totally different kind of music. They're more folk."
Thompson said the range of things Masse is comfortable singing was what landed her the gig. He said among the songs they plan to perform is one of Masse's compositions, a song called "Mittens.""We're also doing a song called 'A Cradle in Bethlehem,'" Thompson said. "Heather suggested it. That was one I wasn't aware of, but Nat King Cole did it a long time ago."Thompson said he was glad for the input. Each year, it's a challenge to find new material to add to the show."We're always looking for new things," he said.Thompson said the show would feature the entire band, including saxophonist Doug Payne. Payne left the area for Winston-Salem, N.C., several months ago but is making a special trip back to be part of the shows."He'll be here with us all week," Thompson said.
It's not a guest appearance, Thompson explained."Doug is still in the band," Thompson said. "He'll play with us whenever it merits it.""Joy to the World" merits it, he said. It's one of their biggest shows of the year.Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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