Thursday, November 28, 2013

Songs Strings & Steps - Home for Christmas

Songs Strings & Steps presents  
Home for Christmas
Featuring: Calvin Dyck and the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra
Jubilate!, directed by Larry Nickel
The Pilkey Sisters, Courteney Rodda, MEI Drumline, Mel Bowker
Stage Direction: Sylvia Friesen
Friday, December 20, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 21, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Central Heights Church, 1661 McCallum Road, Abbotsford
Tickets at House of James and Kings Music (Abbotsford and Chilliwack) and by calling 604-853-5996

Just steaming along - Home for Christmas!
By Rosemary Phillips

It’s time to pack the suitcases and get to the station for a musical journey Home for Christmas! You won’t want to miss the train in this spectacular Songs Strings & Steps production. On board: over 150 performers; dancers, actors, singers and musicians. The station: Central Heights Church, 1661 McCallum Road, Abbotsford. Scheduled departures: Friday, December 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Destination: Home for Christmas.

All aboard! Directed by Calvin Dyck and staged by Sylvia Friesen with a host of exceptional talent, Home for Christmas takes the audience on a memorable journey – as in days of not long ago – by steam train. Featured are the sights and sounds of the station, the old fashioned ticket wicket, the train and its steam, porters, ticket punchers, and of course, a conductor (played by guess who?). The passengers include the soaring strings of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra, the embracing voices of Vancouver’s Jubilate choir conducted by Larry Nickel, the ever entertaining pianist Mel Bowker, the youthful charm of the Pilkey Sisters, jazz singer Courteney Rodda, dancers, the popular MEI Drumline – and the audience.

The schedule: From its departure with Polar Express, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas the train stops along the way with so many traditional and new favourites like White Christmas, Song for a Winter’s Night, Christmas in Killarney and the Christmas Waltz (with dancers). Says Calvin, “We still have traditional carols such as Little Drummer Boy, I Heard the Bells, and For Unto Us a Child is Born.” Upon arriving at the final stop – everyone will sing the inspiring O Holy Night.

Passenger participation and the Carol Contest: If there’s one thing the Songs Strings & Steps team loves, it’s audience participation. “Along with travel experiences, we have several sing-alongs, and the return of the highly successful Carol Contest,” explains Calvin. “The audience has three carols to vote on during intermission. Two of the carols are by local Fraser Valley composers, Stan Gubiotti and Joyce Janzen, and the last by Gail Poulsen from Ontario. In addition to prize money, the winning carol will be published. A jury selected the top three submissions to be performed during Home for Christmas. This year the audience can even vote by iPhone, and the winner will be announced during the Saturday evening performance.”

Surprises: “We always have to have surprises,” adds Calvin laughing. “My wife Heather, Sylvia and I started planning this show six months ago, dreaming about what could happen. We also asked the cast and the youth for their ideas. So yes, there are surprises. And at the end of the concert as everyone leaves the station, they get a special treat. Yes, it’s a surprise!”

Tickets: To be sure of your seat on this exciting trip Home for Christmas, visit your local musical travel agent (House of James and Kings Music and by calling 604-853-5996) before tickets sell out.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christmas Cirque Spectacular with the Vancouver Island Symphony

The Vancouver Island Symphony presents
Christmas Cirque Spectacular!
Guest Artists: Cirque de la Symphonie
Conductor: Pierre Simard
Friday, December 6, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 7, 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Port Theatre, Nanaimo
Tickets: 250-754-8550 (Individual and Family-4-Pack)

Jaw-dropping Christmas Spectacular
with Cirque de la Symphonie

It’s spine-tingling, jaw-dropping and wonderful - a family Christmas show not to be missed! The amazing globe-trotting Cirque de la Symphonie joins Nanaimo’s very own sensational Vancouver Island Symphony, conducted by the illustrious Pierre Simard, for a Christmas Cirque Spectacular! And to accommodate everyone (the Cirque shows were sold out in advance last year), the VI Symphony has added a third performance. Shows are on Friday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. all at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo.
YOU HAVE TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT- What Tchaikovsky does for the ears with his incredible Nutcracker, Cirque de la Symphonie does for the eyes in this brilliantly colourful festive celebration. World class aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, dancers and contortionists will perform breath-taking choreography and acrobatic feats above and on stage while the VI Symphony plays all-time Christmas favourites.
CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE is the only cirque company in the world that works exclusively with symphony orchestras – from North America, to South Africa and Australia. Says producer Bill Allen, “To us, it’s all about the music, and we strive to present a program that truly merges these two art forms into a balanced three-dimensional concert event. This program is a lot of fun!”
MUSIC AND MAGIC FOR THE SEASON – It’s all familiar music that will have feet tapping and hearts throbbing with Christmas glow. While the orchestra plays segments of the Nutcracker, The Snow Maiden, and Swan Lake, along with familiar pieces like Tarantella, Little Bolero Boy and Sleigh Ride, the audience is whisked away to a world of enchantment where there’s magic, electric juggling balls, a giant wheel over the stage, hula hoops, spinning frames and more.

The musicians from the VI Symphony take the spotlight with the energizing Polar Express Suite, Deck the Halls, and suites from Farandole and Troika. Then look up, way up, for high in the rafters, aerialist Shana Lord soars with grace to the Skater’s Waltz, Vitalii Buza swings with Capriccio Espagnol; then Alexander (Sasha) Fedortchev joins Lord for the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker in a stunning, gravity-defying aerial duo.
“I always love coming to BC,” says Lord, a fearless aerialist (and mother of two little children) with family on Vancouver Island. Before heading to the world spotlight Shana was a national elite gymnast from Vancouver and with Cirque du Soleil. She adds, “I just love the feeling of flying over the orchestra.”

TICKETS - This is a Christmas show that will thrill the whole family – especially the young. Tickets for Christmas Cirque Spectacular (individual and family 4-packs) are available now by calling 250-754-8550. Tickets are also available for the VI Symphony’s Popular Pleasures Series, which includes Christmas Cirque Spectacular, Movie Music Mania (February 15), and The Best of the Beatles (April 26).

For more information:
For more information about Cirque de la Symphony – visit




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

London-Majesty with the Vancouver Island Symphony

The Vancouver Island Symphony presents
London - Majesty
Guest Artists: Andrew Clark, French Horn
Isaiah Bell, Tenor
Conductor: Pierre Simard
Saturday, November 16, 7:30 p.m.
Port Theatre, Nanaimo
Tickets: 250-754-8550

The tale of a city

What Timely Treasures can be found on the streets of London, city of majesty, history, art, poetry and beauty! In this second classical concert of their season Passport to Great Entertainment, the Vancouver Island Symphony whisks the audience away to this majestic city with magnificent music by Joseph Haydn, Frederick Delius, Benjamin Britten and Ludwig van Beethoven. To help raise the Port Theatre roof with regal sound on Saturday, November 16, conductor Pierre Simard and the VI Symphony are joined by Isaiah Bell, tenor, and Andrew Clark on French horn.

Telling a tale through music - Simard has created a program that flows with a thread of storytelling and poetry in music. The concert opens with Haydn’s 1791 salute to Britain’s oldest musical charity - March for the Royal Society of Musicians. Move forward 150 years and the thread continues as Bell and Clark take centre stage for Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, a song cycle written by Britten in 1943.

Isaiah Bell – Simard couldn’t have picked a more fitting tenor for this concert. Bell not only sings song cycles, he writes them. An active performer of song literature, Bell is a native of Fort St. John and has had formal training in Victoria, Montreal, Salzburg and Edmonton. He says,

"What appeals to me is that a song cycle brings together the world of concert and drama. You are creating a whole world with your voice. It’s about telling a story, and here Britten tells the story of the different aspects of night: pastoral tranquility, covert excitement, dirty dealings, sleep - like looking at a statue from different angles.”

Andrew Clark – Joining Bell’s voice is the soaring regal  sound of a French horn played by Clark, a new Islander (from London UK) and principal French horn with the VI Symphony. Says Clark of the Serenade, “It really is quite beautiful; in the Prologue and Epilogue, Britten reminds us of what musical notes nature provides (on a single length of tube) with their less even intonation.”

Clark knows all about lengths of tube. Besides having had a very active and successful career as a soloist and with orchestras in the UK, and now Canada, he manufactures French horns and trumpets.

More on London – But, on with the show and the tale of London. As Simard raises his baton after intermission the audience will be led on a stroll through the park with Delius’ peaceful and melodic On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, and Summer Night on the River. With Coriolon Overture by Beethoven, who was a pupil of Haydn, comes the musical story of military-might versus motherly-tenderness. Then it’s to the very heart of the city as the orchestra plays Haydn's final symphony - London.

Pre-Concert Talk: And so the story is told, but to discover more about the music and composers come to the Pre-Concert Talk.

Tickets: Tickets are available by calling the Port Theatre Ticket Centre at 250-754-8550.

For more information visit: Visit: 

Additional references:
For Isaiah Bell –
For Andrew Clark -