A Brass Monkey production presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch on Friday, December 17. Continues December 18.
Waiting in the Cultch’s renovated sanctuary brought back the feeling of childhood anticipation on Christmas morning: praying for good presents and that Dad wouldn’t put on a Rita MacNeil record.
It’s always a gamble producing a concept album, but a musical act revolving around Charles Dickens’s classic really set high stakes. Fortunately, The Christmas Carol Project paid off with timeless tunes in spades. The greatest gauge for a show’s impact is whether it gives the audience goosebumps, and from the start, chills made their way on a wave of festive folk creativity.
Bill Bourne started with a biting “Bah Humbug” which paired the bluesy foot-stomper with Dave Clarke’s lively narration. Kevin Cook’s “On the Wings of the Wind” was another highlight of the evening. The years of musical experience shone through the well-crafted songs, and the harmonizing between the lyrics and the text was remarkable.
While Bourne characterized Scrooge the best, Maria Dunn was the most notable in her role as Tiny Tim. Dunn’s presence exuded the spirit of the show and her accordion drew the attention of the audience, culminating with “Scrooge’s Jig (or The Maid's Bewilderment)”.
Clarke transitioned between the songs with ease and comical effect. However, during the performances, his hovering around the stage was a noticeable distraction. It was hard not to focus on every movement during longer instrumentals where the audience was left without any visuals. On the same note, the epic jams sometimes droned for any unfolky patrons in the audience, but the talented cast always brought the listener back from their dreamy brink.
The other members of the ensemble: Al Brant, Bill Hobson, Dale Ladouceur, and Terry Morrison were also exceptional. If Bourne was their Bob Dylanesque leader, then he was backed by the Band. Each artist presented his or her own distinct flavour and the mélange created a memorable tapestry that was more than just a Christmas soundtrack. The brilliant ballads could stand no matter what season it was, and showed that Alberta is rich with something more than just oil.
The Christmas Carol Project was a wonderful early present and hopefully the Cultch hosts it again next season. The show was one of the best concepts we’ve heard since the Alan Parson’s Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Unfortunately, they’ve left us longing for more literary music. Please sir, we want some more.