December brings
holiday shows galore

It’s still time to catch some outstanding seasonal performances

By Byron Toben

December 27, 2023

As we enter the last days of December, we can experience many ensembles of seasonal music. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ Marley, I witnessed or will witness several such groups.

Music of Days Past

December 7 to 10, at Loyola Hall

The Montreal Lyric Theatre Singers returned to Loyola Hall at Concordia University with their annual Candlelight Christmas revue. This group of over 40 singers who pay to join the ensemble are truly dedicated, led by moderator Louise Dorais and directed by founder Bob Bachelor.

Started in 1965 to produce full Broadway musical shows, it has evolved into doing annual jazzy Broadway revues in June and this annual Christmas show in December. I am amazed at how they discover new seasonal songs I had never heard of to match a few perennials.

This year’s show did not disappoint – 14 sopranos, 14 altos, nine tenors, six baritones and three bass voices were accompanied by five talented instrumentalists, Chad Linsley on piano, Peter Collantonio on percussion, Tim Malloch on flute, Ella Hopwood on cello and Kyda Charlton on harp.

Candlelight Christmas Lyric Theatre Singers

Candlelight Christmas with the Lyric Theatre Singers – Image: Tam Truong

The 27 songs had some international input, with a Brazilian Noel and a Nigerian Yoruba chant. Also, a Kum By Ya number originated from Afro-American slaves in the American South islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. A curiosity was Spellbound Christmas, which had nothing to do with the Hitchcock movie Spellbound. Ring Those Christmas Bells was answered by I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day.

Santa Claus’s existence was twice affirmed, once in Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus and again in There is a Santa Claus, much to the relief of Mrs. Claus, Who Deserves a Hand (by the way, my research reveals her first name to be Jessica). It was a pleasure to see a Frank Sinatra song involved, with his hit single of Mistletoe and Holly.

I am amazed at how they discover new seasonal songs I had never heard of to match a few perennials.

A mystery was the selection of Something Told the Wild Geese, which term I had associated with Irish soldiers of fortune serving in continental military armies. Irving Berlin’s iconic White Christmas was bound to show up, and it did in the audience sing-along, which included a French translation, Noël Blanc.

A Swinging Christmas further lightened the mood with the cute Spikesjollytwinklyjingly, as did a medley of Christmas at the Movies. Frosty the Snowman was not overlooked amidst all these innovations.

Keep a look out for The Lyric Theatre Singers’ June Broadway Revue from June 13 to 15, 2024 

vegan potato latkes

Potato Latkes – Image: courtesy of Short Girl Tall Order

December 10, at the Segal Centre Studio Space

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre celebrated Chanukah with Yiddish song and dance, most with English or French surtitles, capped at the end with freshly made latkes.

Veteran Sam Stein was spotted among the cast, which included several youngsters. A running joke was whether a group should serve Chanukah latkes or switch to one insistent lady’s choice of knishes. The latkes won, but there was a debate as to whether these folded potato pancakes were best served topped with apple sauce or sour cream. The holiday (December 6 to 15 this year) was noted as celebrated in many cities. Sound-alike Chanukah in Santa Monica was a crowd-pleaser. Afterwards, the audience enjoyed an abundance of latkes (I ate two, one or each topping and took another two home). By chance, the audience in the main show across the lobby for the finale of Boy Falls From Sky then broke and gobbled the remaining latkes left from the Lyrics audience, so none were wasted.

December 13, at Westmount Baptist Church

The St. Lawrence Choir, accompanied by a string quartet and piano, led attendees in celebration of The Messiah, Handel’s 1741 oratorio, which has real staying power and several other choruses, great and small, celebrate it every Christmas. The St. Lawrence Choir, founded in 1972, is a good example of mixed amateur and professional voices.

St. Lawrence Choir

St. Lawrence Choir – Image: courtesy of the St. Lawrence Choir

December 17, at Oscar Peterson Hall

We are familiar with Hockey player Nick Suzuki and with geneticist David Suzuki. Add to that Shinichi Suzuki who devised the holistic method of teaching violin playing by immersion to youths as young as five years old. He lived to be 100 years old and there are Suzuki method centres in many countries. Our Montreal Suzuki Institute string orchestra demonstrated their progress with, by my count, some 67 violin students. This brought to mind the 1957 Broadway musical The Music Man and its signature song, 76 Trombones, but here the violin selections leading the big parade were from Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Bach, Bohm, Vivaldi, Mozart, and even one by Suzuki himself.

The smallest students had to use specially made violins to suit their bodies. Some selections were augmented by cello students and a piano was wheeled on stage to allow Ilana Lazarov to accompany soloist Vivianna Mohamed in a Saint-Saens concerto. The whole was conducted by instructor Dragan Djokic, who sometimes joined in playing as well as in wielding his baton. Exiting audiences were treated to various savoury goodies.

Music of Days Present

Until December 30, at Place des Arts

This classic ballet, composed in 1892 by Tchaikovsky, here performed by Les Grands Ballets de Montreal, opened on December 14.

Crystal Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal – Image: courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Until December 31, at Bell Centre

This latest Cirque du Soleil production incorporates lots of music along with amazing acrobatics. Opened on December 21.

Until January 7, at Hudson Village Theatre

This year’s theme, Puss in Boots, marks the 20th year of this annual feature of song, dance and silly jokes. Opened on December 15. 

Mary Ann Lacey

Mary Ann Lacey – Image: courtesy of Mary Ann Lacey

Music of Days to Come

On December 28, at La Petite Marche Restaurant, from 5 pm to 7 pm

Mostly jazz, some rock or country and a few songs in French or Spanish. No cover or minimum.

December 28, at Le Balcon, at 7 pm

The group features Kim Richardson.

Feature image: The Nutcracker, by Sasha Onyshchenko

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

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Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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