His hair has gone from dark brown to gray in the 27 years he has helped ring in the Christmas season on the Coast -- a fact David Delk readily notes. But after almost three decades of Sounds of the Holidays, Delk is still fired up about the holiday extravaganza and Christmas in general.
This year's Sounds will be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Saenger Theatre in downtown Biloxi. Tickets are now on sale at $25 for adults, $19 for students (12 and younger) and $50 for VIP reserved seating. Tickets are available at any ABC Rental location or by calling 604-5318 or visiting SoundsOfTheHolidays.com.
This will be Delk's final year as director of Sounds of the Holidays.
"It's time for somebody else to take over," he said during a recent interview with the Sun Herald. "I've enjoyed every single moment. And I love working with all the very talented people on the Gulf Coast. I don't know who that (the new director) is going to be yet."
Don't think Delk will be idle during the 2016 Christmas season, however.
"I'm thinking about a production of 'Scrooge' with Anthony Kahlberg," he said, referring to the Coast actor who persuasively portrayed Ebeneezer Scrooge in the 2014 edition of Sounds.
Sounds of the Holidays' genesis was in mid-1988 when Barbara Salloum heard Sue Tillman and Bob Moody performing a piano duet during a recital. Salloum, a member of the board of directors of the Gulf Coast Alzheimer's Association, told other board members about the duet, and a fundraiser concert was created. Joining Tillman and Moody were Jeff Bennett, Wallace Long, Karen Abernathy and Delk joined Tillman and Moody on the stage of the Saenger in early December 1988. About 150 people were in the audience, and the performance raised about $700.
Salloum asked Moody to return for 1989 and he did, as director of the production. He brought the original cast back and added Terese Gargiulo-Evans, Rose Wallace and Keith Ballard. After seven years of directing the show, he asked Delk to take over production responsibilities in 1998. That year, sponsors changed from the Alzheimer's Association to the American Heart Association when the Alzheimer's Association felt they could not commit time to the production. It also moved to Grand Casino Biloxi's Grand Theatre.
"I have two favorites," Delk said of his years with Sounds. "The 25th anniversary show, two years ago, when we brought back so many people who had been part of the production over the years. But my absolute favorite was the first time I walked into the Grand Theatre, by myself, and I was looking out at this huge arena. I thought, 'What in the world am I doing?' But it all came together, thanks to our wonderful staff and cast and the backstage people."
Delk gives a lot of credit to stage manager Mary Lacour.
"She comes every year. She's like the bridge," he said.
This year's Sounds "has over 100 people in it," Delk said. In addition to the 20-piece Coast big band, Coastal Vibrations, The Next Level Dancers, Moody and Abernathy, expect to see performances by saxophonist Richard Shropshire and Ballet Theatre South, an opera duet by Katie and Rick Sawyer, a country performance by Frank Baskett, Matt Mavar as Elvis and an aerial ring performance by Morgan Peterson, as well as many other performances. Delk will be joined by Brent Warr for a duet of "O Holy Night."
Along with the music and beautiful dresses, many people think of the set decorations when they think of Sounds of the Holidays.
"A lot of that comes out of my own pocket," Delk said. "I go out when the sales start and load up on Christmas decorations. This year, the finale includes lanterns. Altogether, I bought 50 lanterns in California, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi."
Planning for Sounds starts months ahead.
"We start rehearsals in October," he said. "I start listening to Christmas music in June. I'm that guy in the car singing Christmas music in the summer."