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A selection of seasonal entertainment to enjoy during the Holidays

By Byron Toben

Candlelight Christmas

The admirable Montreal Lyric Theatre Singers (who pay to join and practice) got a chance to adapt to the Zoom world last June when their annual Jazz concert was converted into four videos.

Building on this experience, they delivered their annual Candlelight Christmas Concert “from our home to yours,” from December 17 to 19, and now extended until January 31. This 2020 streamed version features eleven musical numbers and a cookie-baking insert! Celebrate their 30th anniversary by watching.

French contributions included Angels We Have Heard On High and Cantique de Noel (the latter featuring a solo by Catherine Fournier.) Afro input included Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow with a solo by David Chhiv.

This 2020 streamed version features eleven musical numbers and a cookie-baking insert! Celebrate their 30th anniversary by watching.

Jewish songwriter support continues with An Irving Berlin Christmas and Sammy Cahn’s The Secret of Christmas. Irish traditional melodies were an instrumental treat by violinist Marie-Claire Saindon and pianist Chad Linsley.

A pleasure also to hear again Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, the centrepiece of the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, as revived by New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre and recently reviewed by us.

Oh yes, the cookie interlude with pastry chef alto Shauna Reimer and sous chef alumna alto Maeve Reimer in Backing With The Reimers. Jazz Themes, as usual, lightened the spirit with the bouncy Zat You, Santa Claus? and the jolly Jingle Bells.

The penultimate number was a quintet rendering A Christmas Blessing With Silent Night.

Lyric Theatre Singers -

Lyric Theatre Singers – Image: Tam Lan Truong

The Importance of Being Earnest

A reminder to catch New York’s Bedlam Theatre’s Do More free series, with voluntary donations to a non-profit group. Bedlam, highly praised by the Wall Street Journal and others, does a wide variety of animated readings, including Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen and Chekov, all dear to my heart.

Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest is available on December 22 and, I believe, for one week thereafter.

I am still looking for a sequel on what happened to the two pairs of lovers 25 years later but all I could find was Bunberry, based on Earnest’s fictional hospitalized friend invoked to get out of undesired obligations. I haven’t read it yet but have a New Year’s resolution to do so.

Clara’s Nutcracker Dream

Frame from Clara’s Tri-Cities Nutcracker Dream

The Nutcracker

What’s a holiday season without the perennial Nutcracker ballet suite? Like everything else, it is relegated to virtual performances.

Composer Peter Tchaikovsky had a host of musical symphonies and just three Ballets, but what three! Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker – all all-time classics. Interestingly, The Nutcracker had a mixed reception at its opening in 1892 and was not even liked by Peter himself. Nevertheless, it has stood the test of time and with its come to life inanimate objects, I suspect influenced the mega-hit film Toy Story.

Top-notch groups currently streamed include the New York Ballet (through January 3), the Moscow Ballet (December 19 to 29) and the Pennsylvania Ballet (December 16 to 25). Alas, these presentations are a bit pricey but I have discovered two decent and free Nutcrackers!

Check out the The Nutcraker at Wethersfield (December 23 to 26):

… and Mid-Columbia Ballet’s Clara’s Tri-Cities Nutcracker Dream below (“now through the Holiday Season”).

Feature image: frame from Clara’s Tri-Cities Nutcracker DreamBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

More articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites 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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