Christmas concert tradition for South Surrey musicians

SOUTH SURREY – Bob and Brian Sumner, better known to their fans as the Sumner Brothers, have been organizing a yearly Christmas concert for nearly a decade, and this time around, the boys have it down pat more than ever.

The local folk-rock band of brothers, whose other bandmates include Joseph Lubinsky Mast on bass and Leon Power on drums, are preparing their ninth annual Sumner Brothers Xmas Holiday Extravaganza and the duo says they’ve come a long way since their inaugural bash.

But where did it all begin? Well, just a healthy love of the Christmas season.

“It seems like you either love Christmas or hate Christmas, we love Christmas,” Brian said at the brothers’ South Surrey guitar and music studio on King George Boulevard.

The Elgin Park Secondary School grads clearly aren’t of the population who think that the holiday has become too corporate in recent years.

“The more corporate the better, as long as it starts December first,” Brian said. “I don’t care, as long as it’s December first, get in my face about it. I wanna know it’s Christmas.”

Bob, however, says he had different motivations for throwing the once-a-year bash.

“I think we started doing (A Sumner Brothers Xmas) just for a party,” he said, noting that the brothers put on three recurring shows each year: a Sumner Brothers Xmas Holiday Extravaganza, a Sumner Brothers Halloween and another called Old Bones, a birthday party for a friend.

The first time around, in 2005, the boys rented out Vancouver’s Anza Club and fronted thousands of dollars for their own security, bartenders, décor and more.

Another South Surrey band, the Star Captains, featuring Semiahmoo grad Jim Black, headlined the event.

“They used to be much more difficult because we used to do them at the Anza Club or the Wise Hall and those we had to get our own security, our own door person, our own bartenders and then decorations and all that, so that would take months of preparation,” Brian revealed.

“But now because we’ve been doing it so long, we already have the Christmas chair, all the lights, all the fake greens,” Bob chimed in. “Half our folks’ crawl space is like Tupperwares full of Sumner Brothers Christmas gear.”

Besides fake foliage and mistletoe, a staple in the boys’ Christmas show is Sheldon, the whiskey-drinkin’ Santa who takes photos with concert-goers for $5, which includes a Sumner Brothers shotglass. The same Santa also played the part of Satan at this year’s Sumner Brothers Halloween show at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre.

“We have Sumner Brothers shot glasses that we make, so it would be five bucks, a shot and a picture with Santa, and he would generally have a shot with every single person who came through, and Santa would have to be carried out every year,” Bob said with a laugh.

“He’s tried to curb that,” he jokingly assured.

Now that the boys’ annual Yule time show is almost a decade old, they’re doing things a little differently.

“We just want Christmas to be… a sort of family and friends affair, so we’re inviting a ton of musicians who will do about two or three songs each,” Bob told the Now.

Bands and musicians performing this year’s show include The Wild North, Ben Rogers, Rob Butterfield, Real Ponchos, Khari McClelland, Colleen Rennison, Twin Bandit, Dirty Luke, Johnny 99 and more.

“It’s going to be such an extravaganza this year, there are going to be at least 20 songwriters or bands and then we’ll play a longer set at the end,” he said.

Brian added that this year will be a lot less stressful than previous parties.

“It used to be thousands of dollars on the table, ’cause when you rent a room, you have all this money that goes out for beer, security, liquor licenses, everything. We’d just be nervous wrecks all night, hoping we’d get our money back. Now, for us, it’s just hoping that people show up.”

Judging from their previous successes, it seems that the brothers will probably have a few repeat customers.

Asked if the hassle seems too much to bear some years, the brothers replied, “it feels like that a little bit every year.”

“But it always feels worthwhile when you’re done,” Bob was quick to add.

A Sumner Brothers Xmas IX Holiday Extravaganza takes place at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance at and $15 at the door.

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