Chor Leoni Men's Choir
Yuletide Fires

Date and Venue 18 Dec @ 7.30pm, St. Andrews-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St, Vancouver & 19 Dec @ 1pm, West Vancouver United Church 2062 Esquimalt Ave, West Vancouver

Artistic Director Diane Loomer, C.M.

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This is the traditional Chistmas show of Chor Leoni Men's Choir, considered one of the best, if not the best, in Vancouver, or even all of Canada. What makes this choir click is not only the quality of the performance under director and founder Diane Loomer, but also its rapport with the audience. Its signature choreography of approaching the audience and singing with them makes this group stylistically unique.

The title of the Chistmas programme this year, "Yuletide Fires", is from Loomer's own composition of the same title which was the eighth song in the repertoire, and also recorded in one of the choir's CDs that were selling at the lobby of the church before and after the show. This particular piece was quite good and I liked the way it was sung, particularly the contrast of the tenors and the baritones/basses, who alternated singing some of the verses of the composition.

I also enjoyed the arrangement of the last song, the popular "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Canadian Miles Ramsay. In fact, 11 out of the 17 pieces sung were composed and/or arranged by Canadians. So this was indeed a Canadian Christmas. The audience delighted in "The Mummer Song" which originated from the East coast of Canada. Even if the applause was expected only after the programme ended, the audience couldn't help but applaud the choir after they gave a hearty rendition of this piece.

St. Andrews Church was jampacked. The show had to start 10 minutes late, to get everyone seated, and even after the 90-mnute programme started, people were still coming in. The only drawback I found in the programme were the long narrations before some songs, in particular, the "story-telling" of a snowstorm that occurred in Saanich in 1996 . There were two long narrations before and after the piece "In the Bleak Midwinter". I would have preferred to hear the story sung rather than told, as the audience came to hear songs, and not stories.

Perhaps these narrations were needed in order to fill in the 90 minutes, but I just found them a bit long and unnecessary. I noticed some audience members looking at each other quizzically, wondering perhaps why they were included to the repertoire of songs. But this was a minor point in the programme, and other than this, the audience gave the men's choir a hearty and deserving ovation at the end of the evening.

© 2009 Ed Farolan