As always, Christmas concerts fill Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s calendar in December, and three are planned in Surrey this year.
For a pair of them, a North Delta teen crooner will be in the spotlight.
First up, the VSO will showcase “A European Christmas” at Bell Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 7, featuring excerpts from Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and also Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.
The soloists that Saturday evening will be soprano Kallie Clayton and mezzo-soprano Barb Towell, conducted by Constantin Trinks.
“(Trinks) won many fans on his previous visits to Vancouver,” says an event post at vancouversymphony.ca. “His deft phrasing and attention to detail will let the drama of this program shine. Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is a European Christmas classic. Paired with Tchaikovsky’s splendid 5th Symphony, this will certainly be a festive treat.”
The orchestra’s other December concert at the Bell is “A Traditional Christmas,” which will be performed twice at the Sullivan-area theatre on Saturday, Dec. 14, first at 4 p.m. and again at 7:30.
The annual concert, which includes choral singing, audience sing-alongs and storytelling from host Christopher Gaze, is toured to different cities in the region, this year starting in Burnaby and ending at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre.
EnChor, a choir directed by Guildford-area resident Morna Edmundson, performs during the two-hour “A Traditional Christmas” concert.
“This is my second season as artistic director of EnChor,” Edmonson said, “and I think we’re in our 12th year, and many of the people in the choir are friends of mine and people I’ve worked with over the years, so it’s sort of a homecoming for me.”
Edmundson also leads Elektra Women’s Choir, which she co-founded in 1987 with Diane Loomer, who died in 2012.
With EnChor, Edmundson is working to prepare the choir for Andrew Crust to conduct.
“Andrew is the new assistant conductor of the VSO, and he’s coming to our rehearsal this Friday (Nov. 29), for the first time, to work with us, and then we rehearse with the symphony at the beginning of the run and then perform the concert all over the Lower Mainland.
“I’m attending five of the 10 performances,” Edmonson continued, “and some of the choir members are doing all 10 of the concerts, and others are doing six or seven of them, so there’s movement in and out, because that’s a lot of concerts to perform in a row. For some of the concerts I’ll be in the audience, to listen to the balance and the acoustics.”
She called the Bell theatre “a great place for this concert, with the great acoustics and the space. It’s perfect.
“It’s a special concert, for sure,” Edmondson added, “and having Christopher Gaze as host, and audience sing-alongs and symphonic music, the choir – it’s a beautiful package that I think many people love to go to, and certainly we love being part of it.”
This year, the soloists are Nicholas Kluftinger, Libby Donald, Mariana Morena and Rachel Buttress. Featured songs include “Silver Bells,” “O Holy Night,” “Good Day, Sir Christmas,” The Nutcracker‘s “Waltz of the Flowers,” “The Christmas Song,” “Somewhere in My Memory” (from the movie Home Alone) and, near the end, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Nicholas Kluftinger, 16, is a vocalist from North Delta who studies jazz and classical voice at the VSO School of Music with Diane King, and aspires to pursue a post-secondary degree in Jazz Voice Performance, according to a bio published by the VSO.
“He is thrilled and honoured to have this performance opportunity with the Vancouver Symphony,” to sing “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé, and made famous by Nat King Cole.
Nicholas has a love for the crooner classics and Big Band genre. A grade 11 French-immersion student at Burnsview Secondary School, he is also a history buff and enjoys creative writing and playing piano.
At venues in Vancouver, other VSO holiday concerts in December include “Tiny Tots Holiday Hooray” (Dec. 6-7), “A Holly Cole Christmas” (featuring the singer’s “wonderfully eclectic mix of Holiday material and fan favourites,” on Dec. 11), a showing of the animated film “The Snowman” (Dec. 15), a “Home Alone” movie screening with live music (Dec. 18, 20) and “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” (Dec. 20-21).