A Traditional Christmas Concert

Date: 9 December 2004, 7.30pm Venue: St Andrew's-Wesley Church

Reviewer: John Jane Decorative element -holly





Conductor Bramwell Tovey Host Chrisopher Gaze Featured Artist Melanie Krueger

Decorative element - holly
Melanie Krueger
Melanie Krueger

'Tis the season for Christmas concerts, and what better place to enjoy the first of ten traditional Christmas concerts given by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra than at the beautiful Saint Andrew's-Wesley Church, at the corner of Nelson and Burrard. With its high-vaulted nave and deep transepts, the Island-granite church offers excellent acoustics.

After braving the wrath of the "pineapple express" last Thursday evening (9 December), the audience were given an early opportunity to imagine themselves in more festive weather with an invigorating "Sleigh Ride" -- horse-drawn, of course.

The programme tended to favour instantly recognizable seasonal tunes like the Mel Torme yuletide chestnut, "The Christmas Song," better known by its first line "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" - over obscure mediæval carols.

Concert host, Christopher Gaze brought his inimitable story-telling style to the proceedings with some delightfully recounted stories, including Charles Tazewell's classic Christmas tale, "The Littlest Angel." Gaze bought it magically to life with a humourous and touching narration, interspersed with popular, modern Christmas songs like "Mary's Boy Child" and "Joy to the World."

For many who attend this concert year after year, the most enjoyable feature is the half-dozen or so selected audience carols, when the audience gets to sing along with the orchestra. Some conductors are simply born great, some conductors have the opportunity to be great thrust upon them. So it was when the mischievous Maestro entrusted his baton to Christopher Gaze to lead the audience in seven verses of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen."

Melanie Krueger, resplendent in a long black gown, looked as angelic as her soprano voice, as she sang the Charles Gounod version of Ave Maria and Gesu Bambino ("O Come, Let us Adore Him").

After three more performances at St Andrew's-Wesley, the popular 80-minute Christmas concert moves to the Bell Performing Arts Centre, Massey Theatre, South Delta Baptist Church, and, finally, to the Centennial Theatre, North Vancouver.

2004 John Jane