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Cherished Christmas music in store Saturday

Joanne Hankey of Chilliwack (foreground) and Miya Otake of Vancouver are two of the featured harpists in the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra
Joanne Hankey of Chilliwack (foreground) and Miya Otake of Vancouver are two of the featured harpists in the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra's annual concert, A Christmas You Can Handel, at the Cultural Centre on Saturday.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

The delicate sound of the harp will be front and centre during A Christmas You Can Handel, on Dec. 14 at the Cultural Centre presented by the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

A spectacular variety of both eclectic and traditional Christmas music is in store for Chilliwack music fans on Saturday night.

There will be 65 voices in the chorus, and another 25 CSO players performing in the symphony this year.

"I'm really excited about this concert, as I think it will offer the best of both worlds," says resident conductor Paula DeWit. "From the eclectic first half with harp, piano and choir, to the second half that is devoted to Handel's Messiah, these are some of my favourite elements."

Here are some of the program highlights, with a few sparkling gifts being kept under wraps until the night of the concert.

CSO resident harpist Miya Otake will be on concert harp, while harpist Joanne Hankey will be performing on the Celtic harp, and together they will perform the Winter Harp arrangements of I Wonder as I Wander, Huron Carol, and In the Bleak Midwinter.

Sarah Dyck will play flute, bass flute and penny whistle.

The sound of harp strings being plucked has been likened to the sound of someone's voice.

"It's the closest sound I know to the human voice, and just looking at the instrument itself is beautiful. There are so many different sizes and shapes."

Incredibly, a total of 10 harps will be performed on stage during the first half, and one of those will be the CSO's concert harp.

"Thanks have to go out to the Chilliwack Foundation, as the CSO is most fortunate to own a concert harp of its own," says DeWit.

It's a dream come true for the CSO to have acquired its own harp, and the wisp of that dream was first ignited by the late CSO Maestro John Van Liempt.

"Now we have several harp players and we're talking about creating a harp ensemble here in Chilliwack."

The other compelling reason for featuring the harp is their association with angels.

"People also connect angels with Christmas, so it's fitting."

The concert harp will be played throughout the evening in both the lobby and on the stage.

The Christmas concert is another opportunity to be delighted by the gorgeous piano stylings of Chilliwack's own Debbie Fortnum.

"As Debbie plays the carol, I Saw Three Ships, she'll be joined by Scottish dancers from the Aberdeen Dance Studio," says DeWit.

The chorus will sing favourites like Away in a Manger, The Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, and also a new selection entitled O My Babe, written by Lori Pappajohn of Winter Harp.

Following the intermission, the orchestra and chorus will present Part One of Handel’s glorious Messiah.

The popular Part One of Messiah is sometimes known as the 'Christmas' portion, because in concert it is traditionally performed during the Advent, sometimes in singalong.

Celebrated soloists of the evening include soprano Michelle Koebke, Soprano; mezzo soprano Fabiana Katz, tenor Jonathan Michel, and bass Tony Funk who will sing Messiah.

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Cultural Centre, Dec. 14, Tickets $25/$15 students, at the Cultural Centre, or online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or phone 604-391-SHOW(7469).

 

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