A seasonal sampler

MUSIC RISING by Bruce Mason

Photo: Vancouver Cantata Singers: A Christmas Reprise

• Shakespeare advised, “If music be the food of love, play on” and you’re in the right place and time to feast on local, seasonal sonic celebrations and larger concerts at community venues – featuring trad faves and new variations for fans of all ages. Listing all the options would fill this issue of Common Ground, but let’s get inspired and start with a glance at the menu.

Shop craft fairs and Christmas markets, but also plan and Google events and attractions. There’s lots to choose from, including live theatre, special performances by orchestras and choirs and choruses, including the Bach Choir (VancovuerBachChior.com), Vancouver Men’s Chorus, Chamber Choir and Symphony (Vancouver-Symphony.ca).

There are also activities galore and lights for cameras. Choirs, floats and 65 marching bands gather for the 2015 Santa Claus Parade, Sunday December 7, in front of the Art Gallery, 10:30AM. The parade takes off from Georgia and Brougham at 1PM, travelling east to Howe and Davie before sending Santa off for some free skating at the Robson Square Ice Rink where 12 Days of Christmas features music of all sorts (see RobsonSquare.com/events) from December 13 to 24; skate rentals are $4. Ride the Stanley Park Train (TicketLeader.ca) and take your skates and camera up the lift to the North Pole on Grouse Mountain (604-980-9311) – also on until Christmas Eve.

Stroll East Vancouver’s Trinity Street between the 2400 and 2900 blocks and other highly charged neighbourhoods. And don’t miss VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights, December 10 to 18, 4:30-9PM, and from December 26 to January 4 (TicketForce.com).

Some examples of Christmas events:

  • Dec. 13: The 5K Ugly Christmas Sweater Dash starts 11AM at Olympic Village. Proceeds to the Children’s Wish Foundation (nowthatsugly.com/vancouver-dash/).
  • Dec. 16: Chanukah Celebrations include Light up the Night at Canada’s tallest menorah in front of the Art Gallery, 6PM.
  • Dec. 21: The festival at Mount Pleasant Community Centre.
  • The Singing Christmas Tree (VancouverSingingChristmasTree.com/) celebrations (see TicketsTonight.ca) of the 100th anniversary of the Truce of 1914 when German and allied soldiers sang in No Man’s Land.
  • Dec. 20-21: A Women’s Winter Faire, Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street, 11-5PM (www.soundsandfuries.com/faire.html).
Winter Harp
Winter Harp

Finally, three different musical events, guaranteed to please everyone: Vancouver Cantata Singers: A Christmas Reprise X11, Winter Harp and Van Django Bells. The VCS annual Christmas concert is Saturday, December 20 in Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards Street, 2PM. Tickets $20 at www.vancouvercantatasingers.com or 604-730-8856. This treasured yuletide tradition is a matinee performance – for a break in shopping – of the pure and simple joys of an unaccompanied choir in glorious acoustics. Very accessible, affordable and certain to sell out.

One of the country’s most joyous and magical annual traditions, Winter Harp, is back for a 21st season, returning to the coast to close out its 11-city Western Canada Christmas concert. See www.winterharp.com for more information.

A must-see on the holiday calendar for more than two decades, Winter Harp is a gloriously evocative concert experience garnering sold-out houses and standing ovations. Clad in medieval attire, the ensemble performs carols, Celtic, medieval, world and Spanish tunes on harps, drums, tambourines, temple bells, flutes, the ethereal-sounding bass psaltery – the only one like it in the world – the organistrum (an early form of the hurdy-gurdy) and the Swedish nyckelharpa.

Vancouver’s hottest swing string quartet, Van Django Bells, is touring a Christmas Variety Show:

  • Dec. 14: Charlie White Theatre, Sidney.
  • Dec. 16: Presentation House, North Vancouver.
  • Dec. 18: Michael J. Fox Theatre, Burnaby.
  • Dec. 19: St. James Hall, 3214 W. 10th Ave.
  • Dec. 20: Mount Seymour United Church, North Vancouver.

For more information, see www.vandjango.com

Van Django’s music is punchy, driving and rhythmically inventive, combining a wealth of musical influences in the gypsy jazz style of Django Reinhardt and the 1930s Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Joining violinist Cameron Wilson, guitarist Budge Schachte, guitarist/cellist Finn Manniche and bassist Brent Gubbels are harmonica virtuoso Keith Bennett, and vocalist Leslie Monteney.

Wilson says, “Everyone had a great time at last year’s premiere concert. Folks loved the mix of music and the feel-good vibes so we expanded it to include everything from the evocative I’ll Be Home for Christmas to Let It Snow, Santa Baby and Silver Bells to Ave Maria, a bit of Beethoven, and much more, something every ear, heart, and tapping foot will enjoy.”

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

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