A Dylan Thomas Christmas

Dates and Venue 18 December 8 pm & 20 Dec 3 pm | Ryerson Church, 2195 West 45th Ave at Yew St., Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Both evening and afernoon shows were sold out which simply means VCC might have to get a larger venue when it presents its Christmas shows. The concert I attended was jampacked, and what delighted the aftenoon audience the most was Russell Roberts' readings from A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas in the second half of the programme. It was an interesting format. After each of the 11 brief readings, the choir would sing a Christmas song relevant to each of the the topics of Dylan's recalling his childhood Christmas in Wales.

The first half of the concert started off with The Great O Antiphons of Advent by Healey Willan (1882-1969). They were called thus because they all started with "O", and these seven antiphons date back to the 9th century and were sung at Vespers durng the last seven days before Christmas. Following this was O magnum mysterium by the Spanish Renaissance Composer Tomas Luis Victoria (1549-1611), a piece sung exquisitely by the choir. Victoria was considered as the greatest Spanish composer of sacred music during the Renaissance.

The more contemporary Jackson Berkey (b.1942) and a friend of Maestro Washburn, was the last composer featured in this opening set. Washburn whose sense of humour I quite enjoy described Berkey as somewhat eccentric in his appearance, wearing his hat tipped to the side. What was pictured in my mind as he was described were the "dandies" of old. I found his music quite interesting and somewhat different from the usual, and Washburn used the word "reddish" to describe them. I guess he meant Berkey "spiced" his Anniversary Carols with the "pop" element, as Berkey is presently touring, acording to Washburn, and is the featured keyboard player of the pop group Mannheim Steamroller.

The Anniversary Carols were named thus because they were wedding anniversary gifts to his wife. I was wondering whether they were married durng the Christmas season because they are traditional Christmas carols but arranged in his own jazzy version of th: "Angels We Have Heard on High", "O Come, All Ye Faithful", "A Day in a Manger", "The Silent Word", and "Joy to the World". The audience was amused by the choir's rendition of these carols.

During the intermission, an award was presented to Artistic Director Jon Washburn by the Canadian Music Centre making him one of 50 music ambassadors of the Centre.

© 2009 Ed Farolan