Vancouver's arts groups bring much-needed musical warmth this holiday season

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      Seven Vancouver arts organizations will bring joy to local music fans with in-person performances this holiday season. 

      Please note: COVID-19 protocols set in place by the current Provincial Heath Orders include proof of vaccination and the use of masks.

      Dala leads Bach Choir in St. Nicolas

      Starting things off on November 30 is the performance by the Vancouver Bach Choir of Benjamin Britten's St. Nicolas at the Orpheum Theatre. The cantata will feature the Bach Choir and Children’s Choirs, the VSO School of Music Sinfonietta, pianists Stephen Smith and Kin Ming Wong, and tenor soloist Asitha Tennekoon.

      "It's literally based on the saint who is the inspiration for Santa Claus," the choir's music director Leslie Dala told the Straight in a phone call. "And we're partnering for the very first time with the Sinfonietta, which is a very high-level youth orchestra. It's kind of perfect because Britten wrote it for a number of schools celebrating an anniversary, so the premiere was actually performed almost exclusively by young people."

      Christopher Gaze

      Gaze joins VSO for Traditional Christmas

      The next day, on December 1, the Vancouver Symphony kicks the holiday vibe into high gear with the first show of its Traditional Christmas series, which is hosted by Bard on the Beach's Christopher Gaze and takes place at various Lower Mainland locations. December 1 will see two shows at North Vancouver's Centennial Theatre, December 2 has a stop at Surrey's Bell Performing Arts Centre, December 3 has two performances at West Van's Kay Meek Arts Centre, December 4 brings two shows to New Westminster's Massey Theatre, and then on December 18 and 19 the VSO returns to its home base of the Orpheum Theatre.

      Other VSO holiday concerts at the Orpheum include The Nutcracker on December 9, with Gaze hosting selections from Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece; A Dee Daniels Christmas, featuring the Vancouver jazz diva, on December 10 and 11; a kids' concert on December 12 featuring the Oscar-nominated animated film The Snowman; and Home Alone in Concert, where the comedy classic is screened with a live performance of John Williams' score by the symphony, on December 16 and 17.

      And the Vancouver Symphony will carry on a VSO holiday tradition at the Chan Centre on December 17 and 18, when violin soloist Lara St. John leads the orchestra in a performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

      Quick directs Welsh Men's Choir in Sing We Now of Christmas

      On December 5 the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir, led by music director Jonathan Quick, will perform its Sing We Now of Christmas program at Massey Theatre, a joint concert with Winter Harp, where classical and Celtic harps combine with flutes, violin/fiddle, rare medieval instruments, percussion, poetry, and song. On December 7 the VWMC will be joined at the Surrey Arts Centre by flutist Paolo Bortolussi and mezzo-soprano Taryn Plater, then on December 13 at South Delta Baptist Church by Bortolussi and soprano Skye Wilkinson, along with members of the South Delta Secondary School Choir, who will perform their own set of carols. The final performance of Sing We Now of Christmas will take place on December 16 at Centennial Theatre, where Wilkinson, saxophonist Julia Nolan, and members of the Argyle Secondary School choir will join in.

      Universal Gospel Choir
      Facebook/Universal Gospel Choir

      Delisle delivers The Magic of Yule with the UGC

      On December 11 the Universal Gospel Choir performs We Rise Again, The Magic of Yule at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Directed by Lonnie Delisle and featuring the UGC Band, the program includes seasonal favourites ("Joy to the World", "Ave Maria"), inspirational pop anthems ("This is Me", "A Beautiful Noise"), soulful world music, and get-up-and-groove gospel tunes.

      Symphony 21 jazzes up the Nutcracker

      On December 15 at the Chan Centre, Symphony 21 presents a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in its full orchestral glory, with additional selections from the ballet. Alongside this seasonal favourite, the Jaelem Bhate Jazz Orchestra, a full-sized big band, will perform Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s arrangements of the Nutcracker.

      Turenen conducts Vancouver Chamber Choir in WASSAIL

      On December 17 at Pacific Spirit United Church the Vancouver Chamber Choir under conductor Kari Turunen will offer WASSAIL, its holiday concert featuring English carols both old and new, as well as a performance of Benjamin Britten’s masterwork A Boy was Born.

      "Britten was only a teenager when he wrote A Boy was Born," reads the event info on the VCC website, "an ambitious cycle of variations on a simple melody that guides listeners through many styles and characters from breathtaking beauty to explosive joy. The music showcases Britten’s precocious talent, skilled beyond his years."

      Erick Lichte

      Lichte leads Christmas with Chor Leoni

      Also on December 17, and continuing December 18 and 20, is the Chor Leoni Men's Choir's Christmas With Chor Leoni, which takes place at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church.

      Joining the choir in a program that includes such seasonal faves as "Deck the Halls", "Winter Wonderland", and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" will be violinist Cameron Wilson, pianists Tina Chang and Karen Lee-Morlang, and guitarist Keith Sinclair.

      "It's our biggest event of the season," Chor Leoni artistic director Erick Lichte told the Straight by phone. "I'm just so excited to bring people together for that time, and I think after this time apart from one another it's gonna feel particularly sweet. We've got a really fun program, and one with a lot of beauty and a lot of heart as well."

      Lichte pointed out that the choir's version of "Silent Night" is not to be missed.

      "Especially the way we do it," he said, "where the choir typically surrounds our audience with candles and we sing that piece together. And there is again something about that connection that you feel at that time of the year. I'm so excited to do that, especially in our new space at St. Andrew's-Wesley Church. They've renovated that churchit's been a three-year renovationand the space was always gorgeous, but it is even more beautiful now. So having that celebration of the season in that room has always been a very special thing for me, and that song is, I think, the quintessential one for that experience."

      The Vancouver Bach Choir performs Britten's St. Nicholas on November 30 at the Orpheum Theatre.

      The Vancouver Symphony performs its Traditional Christmas on December 1 at Centennial Theatre, December 2 at the Bell Performing Arts Centre, December 3 at Kay Meek Arts Centre, December 4 at Massey Theatre, and December 18 and 19 at the Orpheum Theatre.

      The Welsh Men's Choir performs Sing We Now of Christmas on December 5 at Massey Theatre, December 7 at Surrey Arts Centre, December 13 at South Delta Baptist Church, and December 16 at Centennial Theatre.

      The Universal Gospel Choir performs We Rise Again, The Magic of Yule on December 11 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

      Symphony 21 presents The Nutcracker: Tchaikovsky Meets Ellington on December 15 at the Chan Centre.

      The Vancouver Chamber Choir performs WASSAIL on December 17 at Pacific Spirit United Church.

      The Chor Leoni Men's Choir performs Christmas With Chor Leoni on December 17, 18 & 20 at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church.