Candlelight Christmas 2017
The Lyric Theatre Singers present their ever-popular traditional holiday concert
By Byron Toben
How quickly 2017 has flown by! Once again I find myself at the beautiful Loyola Chapel for the delightful Lyric Theatre Singers’ annual holiday concert, Candlelight Christmas.
The 37-member group, augmented by six newbies this year, remains guided by Musical Director Bob Bachelor. These are dedicated choristers who audition and actually pay to join the group, which puts on this winter wonder and a spring Broadway hits number.
Again, as usual, the varied selection of 26 songs (not counting an encore and two sing-alongs) included nine arranged by Mr. Bachelor himself, four by Chris Barillaro and one (A Charlie Brown Christmas) jointly. Until I began reviewing musical shows, monotone me had never realized how important arrangements were in addition to the creativity of the original composers.
These are dedicated choristers who audition and actually pay to join the group, which puts on this winter wonder and a spring Broadway hits number.
The ensemble included 24 women (twelve sopranos and twelve altos) and fourteen deeper voices (seven tenors, four baritones, two basses), all men save for Marlene Schwartz, a baritone, who has been a member, I believe, since inception.
Backing up the vocal harmonics were five instrumentalists, Robin Best (harp), Peter Colantonio (keyboard and percussion), Shelagh Hannigan (cello), Ben Kwong (piano) and Tim Malloch (flute).
Again, as usual, styles ranged from Calypso, Celtic and Gospel to Pop, and Channukah favourites. (I even spotted two candlelit menorahs alongside the walls in addition to the usual crèche.)
The first half led off with an a cappella number, Ogani Ni Fun Oluwa!, with the singers interspersed in the audience. Then, all clad in black suits and gowns, they re-assembled on stage for mostly churchy selections, punctuated by audience participation with Light a Candle. This gang has got this part down to a science, all these years, with nary a report of dripped wax, burn or other mishaps. I did have trouble blowing out mine, but a nice neighbouring lady assisted in solving that.
‘Again, as usual, styles ranged from Calypso, Celtic and Gospel to Pop, and Channukah favourites.’
The sopranos and altos sang a neat Sweet Little Jesus Boy that featured Laurie-Anne Jean Baptiste. Tenors and Basses responded with a rhythmic Christmas Kum Ba Ya.
Particularly crowd-pleasing was Katherine Fournier’s solo within Cantique de Noel.
The second half was a bit more jazzy, leading off with a medley of songs by Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne and others, highlighted by I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm and leading into an Irving Berlin Christmas which included the now obligatory I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.
Rudolph and Santa got their tunes pitched in, Santa twice with the Tenors and Basses announcing that he is Coming To Town and the Sopranos and Altos querying Zat You, Santa Claus?
The two sing-alongs printed in the program were Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver (a rough translation of Winter Wonderland) and Sleigh Ride. The now routine encore included a version of Jingle Bells.
Among the photos is a little boy watching the crowd from the balcony above during the candlelight ceremony. I offer $20 to who (whom?) ever can identify which light is mine. I already know.
For auditions to join the Lyric Theatre Singers, see details at lyrictheatrecompany.com
Its new Broadway concert will be June 14 to 16 at the DB Clarke Theatre.
Candlelight Christmas 2017 closes on Sunday, December 10 at 1:30 pm at Loyola Chapel of Concordia University.
Images: Tam Lan Truong
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Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.
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