Gastown Yule Duel will pit carolling choirs against one another for a good cause

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      On Thursday (December 3) evening, Gastown is going to come alive with the sound of choral music.

      That's because 21 vocal groups will compete in the city's first Yule Duel by belting out Christmas carols on sidewalks around Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood.

      Among the participants will be the Vancouver Pops Choir, Mulgrave Chamber Choir, We 3 Queens, the Carnival Band, Zing! Children's Choir, Gentlemen of Fortune Chorus, and West End Chamber Choir, among others.

      Young singers from Saint James Music Academy will be performing inside the John Fluevog store at 65 Water Street.

      According to Gastown Business Improvement Society executive director Leanore Sali, a panel of judges will name the winners in two categories: best vocal and most creative.

      "Then the top two in each of those categories will then go on-stage and perform," Sali told the Straight by phone. 

      The nine-member judging panel includes Bard on the Beach founder Christopher Gaze, SFU Woodward's director of cultural programs and partnerships Michael Boucher, and Elektra Women's Choir conductor Morna Edmundson.

      The audience will also get a chance to vote for their favourite in a final Yule Duel and make a donation to May's Place. It has been delivering hospice care in the Downtown Eastside for 25 years. The hospice is operated by the Bloom Group, which provides a range of social services in the neighbourhood.

      Sali said that the Bloom Group approached her organization because it felt that Gastown was the perfect location for this type of fundraiser.

      "It's a very magical place at Christmas time down here," Sali noted. "It's away from the malls and away from the hustle and bustle."

      To learn more, Sali decided to visit a similar event in Seattle, which raises funds for the Pike Place Seniors Centre.

      "They had all these groups out carolling," she recalled. "I came back and talked to my board and they said, 'Yeah, we love the idea.' The response has been really, really positive."

      She admitted that before embarking on this project, she had no idea that Vancouver has such a rich choral community.

      Sali pointed out that by bringing choirs into the street, it will enable people who aren't normally exposed to this music to hear them perform.

      When asked if that includes all the techies in Gastown, she responded with a hearty laugh.

      The largest choir has 40 members; the smallest has only six singers.

      The main stage will be in Maple Tree Square at the intersection of Alexander, Water, Powell, and Carrall streets.

      In advance of the grand finale, groups will be singing for about 45 minutes each along Carrall Street to Cordova Street and along Water Street all way west of Abbott Street.

      "We all get so wrapped up in this holiday stuff and the rush to buy presents and gifts," Sali said. "I think this event is sort of a reminder of what it's all about."

      The Yule Duel begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday (December 3) at Maple Tree Square in Gastown.

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