A cappella faves The Heebee-jeebees celebrate 25 years of being a Calgary institution with a pair of Christmas concerts

Like all great and lasting things, it began as a lark.

A cheeky idea that became a deal that became an institution.

And now Calgary a cappella faves The Heebee-jeebees are getting set to mark 25 years of making audiences smile with a pair of concerts at the Bella Concert Hall in Mount Royal University’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

As we sit in the Wild Rose Taproom, lead baritone Jonathan Love is marvelling at the fact that just days before the celebratory shows — Saturday, Dec. 22 and Sunday, Dec. 23 — the first had sold out and the second was close to it.

“That’s a Christmas miracle, man,” he says and laughs.

Well, for those who had been sitting on the fence about getting tickets and thought they might be out of luck, there’s another miracle: they’ve now opened up the choir loft in the Bella, so there should be some space for you and yours.

The fact that they’ve been able to go this big with these anniversary shows, speaks to how beloved they and their not-so-traditional annual Xmas concerts to support the Food Bank have become over the years.

“Christmas is essentially the only real show that we produce every year and have consistently for basically the 25 years we’ve been in existence,” says Love of the act that throughout the year performs mainly corporate functions, private and public events.

And as such, you can expect a whole lot of good cheer on both evenings, with Love promising some surprises including “ghosts from Christmas past, ghosts from Christmas present and we’ll see what ghosts of Christmas future have in store.”

Well, actually, about that … The quartet, which also features Cédric Blary, Chris Herard and Ken Lima-Coelho, will also be using the concerts to release Best Before Christmas, their latest seasonal “gift to the world.” The new album, which will be available to purchase as a Dropcard in the lobby, features new stuff as well as “a lot of Christmas twists with different lyrics, some of the wrong lyrics, a little social commentary, and a whole lot of fun.”

He continues. “It is our fifth Christmas album, so we’re actually in the process of calling Guinness (World Records) to see if anyone else has been ridiculous enough to put out five Christmas albums.”

Again, not bad for a band that said it was a band before it actually was a band.

As HBJBs lore goes, they put the cart before the horse, proclaiming themselves such and getting a gig without having any instruments, a repertoire or even a name.

They just knew they could sing and that being in a band might get them laid and …

“You’re paraphrasing a little bit there,” Love interjects with a laugh. “If I’m to stay on brand I’m going to say, ‘To get dates.’ 

“And free food, which was also a big factor. It’s great … going to places like Earls and My Favourite Ice Cream Shoppe and knowing that if we just sang a song to somebody, somebody would buy us desert. It’s a great way to end a night of gigging.

He laughs. “We’re all definitely a little heavier 25 years later.”

To be fair, a lot of that extra weight could be counted less in calories and more in experiences gained from over their quarter century together.

The Heebee-jeebees have released eight previous studio albums, travelled all across North America, shared the stage with such notables as Percy Sledge, received a number of a cappella awards and honours, and in doing so, have become unofficial “ambassadors for Calgary.”

“We’re pretty plugged into the community, and happily so,” says Love. 

It’s one of the reasons you can often see them sporting Flames sweaters provided by the organization, with the singer noting that connection goes back to when they were performing in San Rafael, CA soon after Calgary had dispatched the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs. They came out for the encore wearing the flaming “C” and were booed as if they were wrestling heels. Word made its way back to the Flames and now they make sure that every time there’s a new team sweater, “there are four available for us.”

Just another step in becoming that aforementioned lasting institution.

“It’s certainly not a plan, we didn’t lay out the landscape to be around 25 years later — you get out and do it on a show-to-show basis,” Love says. 

“I think at some point it changed from pursuing whatever we wanted to do creatively in the studio or in front of an audience to realizing that we were connecting with our community.

“Seven or eight years in it became a little bit more about showing up at the events that meant something to us, and creating those types of community sponsorships …

“You try to show up, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of showing up.” 

And people are still asking, so they’ll keep coming, even if it’s just on a weekend-by-weekend basis and as merely a supplement to the four members’ day jobs.

In fact, as they hit their silver jubilee, Love happily calls The Heebee-jeebees his “yoga class,” a way to get out, spend some time with his friends and have laugh or two along the way.

“We’re not selling that many albums, but we’re sure getting in front of a lot of audiences and making a lot of people smile,” he says.

“And at the end of the day, that’s a good thing.”

(Photo courtesy Sean Dennie.)

The Heebee-jeebees perform Saturday, Dec. 22 and Sunday, Dec. 23 at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets please go to