Shortly after 8pm, Candace Whiting introduced herself on stage as the Deputy Secretary on the National Down Syndrome Board of Directors alongside Victoria Tremonti (Mark's wife). Candace introduced the lady standing beside her on stage (Patricia Moody) as her friend, and as the American Sign Language interpreter who would be signing during the initial portion of the show. She then thanked the Down Syndrome Society volunteers who were assisting throughout the Dr. Phillips that evening. Shortly thereafter, Candace introduced Kandi Pickard, the President of NDSS.
Ms. Pickard explained the mission of NDSS and expressed the challenges most families with Down Syndrome in their families had with having to travel at least 2 hours to have access to quality health care physicians familiar with their population. She then enlightened the crowd by calling out that the Tremonti's had partnered with AdventHealth to start the SMILE with Stella Tremonti Down Syndrome Clinic just 2 months prior. She went on to further explain the close partnership that the Tremonti's have had with NDSS.
A gentleman by the name of John Ehrhardt entered the stage and laid out some of the background detail surrounding this evening's performance: that Stella, the daughter of Mark and Victoria, had been born with Down Syndrome. He went on to describe the fragmented level of care across the US which existed for those with Down Syndrome, which led to Mark and his manager (Tim Tournier) to approach the Sinatra family's endorsement on this personal project (the last time the Sinatra family provided their endorsement, it was for Michael Buble). Through the family's assistance, former members of Sinatra's band, inclusive of Mike Smith (one of the former band leaders) helped Mark record albums in the style of Frank Sinatra -- with the proceeds of album sales going to benefit NDSS.
Dr. Rajan Wadhawan, Senior Executive Officer of AdventHealth for Children and Florida Hospital for Women was the next to speak, and he spoke of the hurdles that children and families with Down Syndrome experienced as they navigated the challenges of the healthcare system, which hasn't been structured to take care of individuals with complex diseases such as Down Syndrome. He described how insurance payments dictated efficiency, such as by limiting the average pediatrician visit to an average of only 15-20 minutes with their patients. Even with this, there were still complex rehab, social, legal, and guardianship issues that also exist. He went on to describe how AdventHealth's physicians had the unique ability to spend as much time with their patients as needed, in order to ensure that their patients were taken care of, and that necessary specialties had also been brought in-house under 1 roof so that the families had all the resources they needed without having to drive around from office to office. He then concluded by explaining how important it was for everyone to continue supporting the central Florida program, by attending events similar to tonight's.
Stella Tremonti was then introduced as her mother, Victoria, carried her across the stage where she was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
When Mark Tremonti emerged onto the stage, he immediately went into Sinatra classics: 'Luck Be a Lady', 'Fly Me to the Moon', 'Under My Skin', 'I've Got the World on a String', 'The Way You Look Tonight', and 'Come Fly With Me.'
He was engaging the crowd in between songs and after 'Come Fly With Me' he said to the adoring audience, "You all came out for Christmas music and it's coming. But not yet." Everyone in the audience began to laugh, and the band played 'Summer Wind'.
Tremonti deviated one more time away from the Christmas theme as he pursued, what he described as, 'the hippest song Sinatra ever recorded, in 'Wave'. With the forewarning that Sinatra had hit the lowest note that he had ever recorded with that song, Mark impressively landed the same low baritone note throughout his performance.
Mark then gave special acknowledgement to guitarist Dan McIntyre, who had previously served as the guitarist for Sinatra himself. This was quite impressive praise given Tremonti's own guitar-god status amongst fans and his peers. Yet, Mark was truly humble and showed genuine respect as he called McIntyre 'an incredible guitar player', further noting how amazing it was "to be in the same room with the guys who were with Sinatra."
At this point in the show, Mark was getting more playful now with the crowd. During the songs, he was then beginning to motion toward the crowd for louder applause during the guitar and saxophone solos. He was really starting to ham it up, and it was fun to see this side of him onstage.
He concluded the Sinatra-classic section of tonight's performance with '(Theme From) New York, New York' and 'My Way.'
For the 2nd half of tonight's set, he sang several Christmas classics inclusive of 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year', 'Jingle Bells', 'The First Noel, 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town', 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas', and 'Let It Snow'. At one point, an audience member yelled out 'You're doing Frank proud.' Mark smiled and said, "Aww thanks. I'll try to do Nat Kind Cole proud next," as he handedly took on 'A Christmas Song.'
Mark also showcased his original Christmas piece 'Christmas Morning' which resonated well with concert-goers.
Towards the end of the performance, Mark was joined by Brian Marshall, his fellow co-founder and bass player for Creed / Altar Bridge which immediately seized hardcore fans' attention from the audience as one member happily exclaimed, 'B Marsh!!', which drew an immediate smile from Tremonti as he responded, 'Yes, B Marsh.'
Tremonti sounded fantastic, and had I heard a recording of this performance, I would have sworn I was listening to Frank Sinatra. He may have been out of his comfortable element by way of not having been behind a guitar for this one, but nonetheless he clearly had the hearts, ears, and attention of tonight's audience. Mark teased that he might return again next Christmas to put on another show, and was asking if anyone would come back to watch. I would certainly encourage any music lover to check that one out! Between his amazing and supportive efforts with the National Down Syndrome Society, the birth of the SMILE with Stella Tremonti Down Syndrome clinic, the audience he was able to draw out on a cold and rainy night to downtown Orlando -- it was truly amazing to try and comprehend just how much Mark Tremonti was able to accomplish over the years, and I firmly believe he's just getting started.