Carolling choirs to battle for a cause at third Yule Duel in Vancouver’s Gastown

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      When it comes to setting the holiday mood, few things beat the sound of Christmas songs.

      This is why Gastown is a good place to be when the largest outdoor carolling competition in Vancouver returns for its third year on Thursday (December 7).

      With 22 choirs performing on Water Street, Yule Duel promises to spark that magical feeling that makes this time of the year a season of wonders.

      “It’s a wonderful event for family, for friends, for people who just want to hear some great songs. It’s a good launch to Christmas,” Leanore Sali, executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Yule Duel is also an opportunity for the public to contribute to a worthy cause.

      Proceeds from the choral competition will go to May’s Place, a hospice in the Downtown Eastside run by the Bloom Group Community Services Society.

      For $5, spectators can purchase a ballot to vote for their favourite choir. They can buy as many ballots as they want.

      The two choirs that receive the most ballots will duel on the main stage for the people’s choice award. The winner will be decided by audience applause.

      Even before the event, participating choirs have started to raise funds online for May’s Place, a six-bed hospice that provides care for people with mental-health issues and addictions.

      The choir that raises the most money gets the right to be among those that will showcase their vocal abilities on-stage later in the night.

      “For us, it’s about sharing, giving back to the community,” Sali said.

      From the 2016 Yule Duel.

      The idea for the Yule Duel was suggested to the Gastown business association by the Bloom Group, a nonprofit that has been delivering social services in the Downtown Eastside since 1961.

      The event starts at Maple Tree Square at 6 p.m. with the Jen Hodge All Stars warming things up with lively versions of traditional tunes like “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”, and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”.

      It will be the first time that the jazz band of Vancouver bass player and musical arranger Hodge will play as guest performer at Yule Duel.

      According to Sali, this year will also be a first for two medical choirs entering the competition. These are the Songcology, which is composed of health care professionals from the B.C. Cancer Agency, and the UBC Med Choir of medical and dental students.

      Other choirs are coming back, like the Notre Dame Platinum Girls, a group of high-school students who won the most-creative-performance award in 2016.

      Also returning is Sweet Scarlet, a Vancouver ensemble of six women that won last year’s people’s choice award.

      While the people’s choice award is determined by spectators, a panel of judges selects the winners of the most creative and best vocal awards.

      Judges include Morna Edmundson, cofounder and artistic director of the Vancouver-based Elektra Women’s Choir; choreographer Tara Cheyenne Freidenberg; Vancouver councillor Heather Deal; social-media maven Rebecca Bolwitt; and Michael Boucher, SFU director of cultural programs and partnerships. The MCs are Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival founding artistic director Christopher Gaze and Global B.C.'s Samantha Falk.


      “Yule Duel is all about the gift of music,” Sali said.

      With the weather forecast predicting no rain on December 7, Sali is positive that it’s going to be a perfect evening for the Gastown event, which wraps up at 9 p.m.

      Sali said: “It’s a great place to be on the street at that time of night, and listen to these beautiful voices.”

      The third annual Yule Duel takes place in Gastown from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday (December7).