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Tinkle Belle

Helen Welch and company ring in the holidays with classic carols.

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Before she married her Ohio-born husband, Helen Welch believed him when he told her it flurried for only a couple of weeks during an average Cleveland winter. Nothing prepared her for the more than 100 inches of snow that fell after she moved (here?) from her native England in 2003. Because she now knows better, Welch has incorporated the story into this afternoon's Jingle Bell Swing on Playhouse Square. "The band will say, 'Oh, Helen. It snows for two weeks, and it's gone,'" says Welch. "So now I hand them a shovel and say, 'Hey, then you dig us out.'"For the second straight Christmas season, Welch joins three backup singers and the 17-piece Dave Stevens Big Band to perform "take-the-roof-off-the-theater" holiday classics like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with the Solon High School Show Choir. The program also includes a Destiny's Child-style "Santa Baby." "It's slightly naughty, but I don't want to put the families off," laughs Welch. "The concert is a chocolate box full of songs: A flavor for everybody, and no hard toffees that people won't like."She'll also regale the audience with memories of Christmas in Great Britain, where the holiday is stretched into three days, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day on December 26. It peaks on Christmas Day with a mimosa-and-croissant breakfast and ham and turkey for dinner. "The difference between here and there is that the English all go out on Christmas Eve to restaurants, nightclubs, and theaters," says Welch. "Here, everything is closed. My first Christmas here, I ran out into the streets and thought, 'Oh! Where is everybody?'" She's since caught on to us Yanks. Although she takes trips back to England every year, Welch has adopted Northeast Ohio as her second home. "I've made the most amazing friends-slash-fans there are," she says. "They say home is where the heart is. Well, my heart is here, and you're not getting rid of me." Welch starts swinging at 3 this afternoon at the Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $1 to $35. Call 216-241-6000 or visit www.playhousesquare.com.
Sun., Dec. 16, 3 p.m., 2007

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