Review: Montreal Lyric Singers

Candlelight Christmas glows brightly

By Byron Toben

The wonderful Montreal Lyric Singers is celebrating its 25th silver anniversary this year. It is the offspring of the 1965 Montreal Lyric Theatre that produced full-scale musicals until 1990, when, as the Lyric Singers, it decided to concentrate on concert presentations.

Each Holiday season, they present a cheerful Christmas show, recently at the beautiful Loyola Chapel on the Concordia Campus. This year’s selection, called Candlelight Christmas appropriately featured 25 numbers. Nine were newly orchestrated by long-time director Bob Bachelor, and four by his more recent co-director Chris Barillardo. Although I am a monotone who cannot distinguish a C sharp from a B flat, I can appreciate the different waves of satisfaction that wash over audiences as they hear clever orchestrations.

The chorus contained, count’em, 46 singers, all dedicated souls who contribute $200 each per year to be a member of the assemblage. This breaks down to 30 women — 17 sopranos and 13 altos — for the higher registers and 15 men and a lone woman for the lower registers of seven tenors, six baritones and three basses. The high registers were featured alone on two items, a traditional Noel Fantasy and a finger snapping urban bit, ’Zat you, Santa Claus? The lower registers replied with a powerful gospel-accented Go Tell It on the Mountain and a jazzy classic by Broadway icons Sammy Kahn and Jule Styne, Let It Snow.

Classic masters were not ignored as seasonal bells were blended with Tchaikowsky in Nutcracker Jingles. An international flavour added spice with A Celtic Noel, an Austrian Still, Still, Still, a French Angels We Have Heard on High, and a Catalonian Fum Fum Fantasy.

Individual choristers showed off their other talents as Soprano Carolyn Peters played the violin for the Celtic Noel and red-maned soprano Sara Wunsch relieved Bob Bachelor in vigorously conducting A Holly Jolly Christmas (which amusingly added Kazoos to the chorus).

A recognition of our digital age entertained all as Soprano Farida El Kilaney, Alto Nancy Young and tenor Ian Burke tried to Text Me Merry Christmas.

A recognition of our digital age entertained all as Soprano Farida El Kilaney, Alto Nancy Young and tenor Ian Burke tried to Text Me Merry Christmas.

The near obligatory Silent Night added some charming group whistling to the lyrics to differentiate the piece from standard versions.

Concordia had decorated the high ceilinged space with lots of tiny Italian lights and a magnificent tall Xmas tree festooned with green bulbs that overlooked one of the best Crèches ever. Two giant Menorahs flanked the stage area, presumably to add an ecumenical flavour to the evening, even though they were the ancient traditional seven candled ones, not the later nine branched Channukia from the later Maccabeen revolt of 167 B.C.E.

The black gowns and suits of the choristers were a perfect background to the magnificent golden harp strummed by Olga Gross together with Tim Malloch on flute, Sheila Hannigan on cello and Luce Bélanger on piano. Chris Barillaro, an in-demand pianist himself, handled keyboard and percussion as well as ably turning pages for Ms. Bélanger.

Audience participation in a safe candle lighting and a spirited sing-a-long (Rudolph, Bonhomme Hiver and Sleigh Ride) added further camaraderie to the night.

Image: courtesy of the Montreal Lyric Singers

Candlelight Christmas ran from December 3 to 6.
The Lyric Theatre Singers have several of their CDs for sale,
including the 2012 Christmas show.
Also plan ahead for their new Broadway Revue from June 16 to 18, 2016.
More information at 514 743-3382 or lyrictheatrecompany.com

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

There are no comments

Add yours