Candlelight Christmas 2016,
a holiday delight
Concert caps 26th anniversary of The Lyric Theatre Singers
By Byron Toben
What a joy to listen again to the annual holiday music of the wonderful Lyric Theatre Singers.
The members of this dedicated group actually pay to be included and rehearse all year for the Broadway-themed June Concert and the Candlelight Christmas concert in early December.
As in last year’s 25th anniversary, innovative orchestrations gave new life to golden oldies and enhanced newer additions to the huge repertoire. Out of the 23-song selection, Musical director Bob Bachelor added six instrumental arrangements and Chris Barillaro, three.
The 40-person chorus included 26 sopranos and altos (all women) and 14 tenors, baritones and basses (13 men, one woman).
…innovative orchestrations gave new life to golden oldies and enhanced newer additions to the huge repertoire.
The woman baritone, long-time member Marlene Schwartz, also rang the jingle bells as the six musicians generated the lush background to the words. Peter Colantonio did double duty on the keyboard and percussion, as did Carolyn Peters on keyboard and violin. Tim Malloch’s flute punctuated key passages while Elizabeth Giroux’s cello kept the beat going. Pianist Benjamin Kwong “tickled the ivories” on the piano in the absence of the busy Mr Barillaro and new harpist Robin Best lived up to her name in plucking the magnificent golden harp.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was a song I had not known of before even though it had been sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. The lyrics were based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (best known for The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) on Christmas Day 1863, in partial mourning for his son, killed in the US Civil War.
On a more cheerful note was The Celtic Rose that resonated with all the hyphenated Canadian Irish, Scots, and Welsh in the 250-person audience.
The audience all lit individual slender candles at one point, as did the chorus at another, all efficiently distributed and collected with nary hot wax dropped nor sleeve singed. I was embarrassed that I had trouble blowing out my candle but rescued by the hearty puff of an attractive lady who chanced to be sitting nearby.
An ecumenical note was interjected not only by the two Menorahs flanking the chorus in honour of the seasonal Jewish Festival of Lights but also by the inclusion of Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz’s Chanukah Song.
Two selections were performed by the women only, Noel Fantasy and The Man with the Bag/Santa Baby, which grabbed long-time Eartha Kitt fan, me.
The audience all lit individual slender candles… all efficiently distributed and collected with nary hot wax dropped nor sleeve singed.
For balanced billing, the men only were featured in Christmas Kum Ba Ya with a Caribbean beat.
Lots of humour with a choral medley including The Grinch! (voiced by bass Adam Gallay) and a digital age reprise from last year, Text Me Merry Christmas (featuring Julia Zwicker and Ian Burke).
The opening night of the three-day, four-show run included a special performance of the English Montreal School Board Chorale with conductor Patricia Abbott. This youthful ensemble (grade 6 to secondary 5) has been featured on the CBC and has toured Canada, the USA and Europe.
They opened Act 2 with What Glorious Sounds and indeed what followed was. Their sounds gave new meaning to the phrase “Out Of The Mouths Of Babes”.
The ever-popular Audience Sing-along gave the assembly a chance to trill Fa la la las and wish each other endless Merry Christmases, as well as practice their French with Mon beau sapin.
Louise Dorais, the ebullient president of the Lyric Theatre was the very model of a modern musical welcomer.
On its site lyrictheatrecompany.com, can be found info on how to audition to join the group, purchase albums of past shows or attend the Broadway Revue to be held June 15 to 17, 2017.
Images: Tam Lan Truong
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club