tim-grinch-band-rblightingOnstage guest The Grinch makes like The Boss as Tim McLoone and Holiday Express perform at a recent Town Lighting ceremony in Red Bank. The all-volunteer musical force returns to Count Basie’s place on Thursday night for a sold-out annual Christmastime concert.

Ask Tim McLoone about the magnificent music machine that is Holiday Express, and he’ll tell you that the big-hearted big band is an attention getter merely because it “makes the most noise,” an engine that pulls — or is it propelled by? — an all-volunteer, non-sectarian force of goodwill that exists largely behind the scenes.

As the founder and highly visible frontman of the homegrown Express, however, the regionally legendary renaissance guy has a threefold task to fulfill in the role of conductor. Not just conductor of the orchestra, or conductor of the train, but a conductor of electricity — the man who (at least figuratively) flips the switch that illuminates a new season of holiday happenings.

When Mr. Mac and his musical force of nature and nurture return to the Count Basie Theatre for their 19th annual concert appearance on Thursday, they’ll bring a set list that ranges from the sacred and serene (“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night”) to the secular and silly (“Run Rudolph Run,” “Disco Santa”) — for one very public performance in the middle of a run that brings light to the darkest corners of our neighborhoods this time of year. To quote (ahem, cannibalize) a previous article on the subject:

It isn’t that you’re not rich enough, cool enough, or connected enough to score tix. It’s just that when Holiday Express puts together its November-December schedule, it’s a slate of performances that take place not in a theater or sports arena, but in such venues as children’s hospitals, senior care facilities, group homes for the disabled — those places where you’ll find what McLoone has referred to as the “adult orphans” among us.

That’s the core of what Holiday Express does — some fifty shows, sometimes three in one day, and many in places that most people would rather not think about at all, not even during the holidays.

A rotating squad of more than 70 Jersey-fresh musicians — a band that’s featured the talents of Jukes/Jovi shorecat Bobby Bandiera, as well as many other folks who are headliners in their own right (Lisa Bouchelle, Linda Chorney, Pat Guadagno, Layonne Holmes, Eryn Shewell, and the sisters McCrink, to name but a few) — brings the aforementioned noise; reclaiming the Spector-inspired Wall of Sound from the Bad Santa who brought it down the chimney.