It may not be the most wonderful time of the year in regards to the weather, but it’s certainly the busiest as far as music events are concerned.
The live music soundtrack for the holiday season resounds in quality events all over town, and the only issue is which to choose.
The programs for Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s A Traditional Christmas (Dec. 12 to 22, various venues, tickets at info at vancouversymphony.ca) go way back, originally inspired by Sir Ernest MacMillan’s Christmas Box concerts with the Toronto Orchestra.
The local management recognized a good thing when they saw it and requisitioned the idea, which morphed into the programs on offer today.
The recipe hasn’t changed: take several shortish orchestral works with seasonal resonances, add singers and carols, mix with commentary and patter (from the inimitable Christopher Gaze) and serve up to beguiled audiences in 13 performances all over Metro Vancouver.
Forces include members of the VSO, the UBC Opera Ensemble, EnChoir (this year under new director Morna Edmundson), with the VSO’s Assistant Conductor William Rowson on the podium (As with any holiday feast, let’s gloss over all the fussy preparations and back-breaking work involved: it’s the result that counts and the shows are one of the cornerstones of a Vancouver holiday season.)
There is one change in 2018: VSO president Kelly Tweeddale explains that the shows start out in suburban venues, then end up downtown at St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church (Burrard and Nelson).
There are still a few choral events to sample. The bulk of musica intima’s A Christmas Story shows are still to come and in multiple locations. Tickets and info at musicaintima.org
This weekend there’s a fine singers and brass event featuring Edette Gagné’s Vivaldi Chamber Choir and the splendiferous A Touch of Brass ensemble in (mainly) baroque music. (Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m., St. Helen’s Anglican Church,4405 West 8th; Dec. 9, 3 p.m., Highland United Church, North Vancouver, 3255 Edgemont Blvd. Tickets and info vivaldichoir.org.
The practical women of Elektra got their Advent-themed show out of the way so early they can feel smug about it all; but singers being singers, this also allows them to be involved in other musical activities. The men of Chor Leoni need a few weeks to recover between big Remembrance Day shows and their Christmas special (Dec. 14, 16, 17, 8 p.m., St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St, with an additional 5 p.m. show on Dec. 17; Dec. 15, 3 p.m., West Vancouver United Church, 2062 Esquimalt Ave. Tickets and info at chorleoni.org)
The Vancouver Chamber Choir’s big seasonal project was The Messiah, but the ensemble has one further gift for the holidays, when artistic director candidate Nicol Matt from Germany’s in charge of A Joyful Christmas (Dec. 14, 8 p.m., Pacific Spirit United Church, 2195 West 45th Ave. Tickets and info at vancouverchamberchoir.com.)
The VSO is not the only organization with Christmas traditions: the Vancouver Cantata Singers has enjoyed extraordinary success with its A Christmas Reprise programs (Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St. Tickets and info: vancouvercantatasingers.com)
Tickets invariably go super fast for this event which offers calm in the midst of holiday chaos, but this year there is another option: the VCS also sings the same program in New Westminster at the Queens Avenue Church (529 Queens Avenue) Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. — not quite the same atmosphere, but the same lovely program.
Next week we’ll look at music for the season that isn’t specifically about you-know-what.
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