Chez Nous: Christmas with Elektra (2016)

7:30pm November 26th, 2016 at Ryerson United Church

Welcome to “Our House”…!

In Canada’s rich multicultural society, it is unlikely that any of us share a common body of traditional songs with the people we meet in our daily lives. Popular songs, yes, but songs that our great-grandparents and their neighbours. and we and our neighbours share – hard to imagine! Unlike some cultures or some generations, we in 21st century Canada are hard-pressed to come up with a tune everyone knows, Happy Birthday and the national anthem being the notable exceptions. But Christmas is different. Choral musicians have a rare opportunity to connect to audiences through the traditional music of the season. It’s a natural bridge we only have once a year. Many of the melodies we sing at this time of year are familiar to you. Not only could you hum them, but you may have memories attached to some of them, which means they have meaning for you before we even start to sing. A Canadian choir and its audience step together into this place of connection for a Christmas concert, and that’s where Elektra meets you for Chez Nous: Christmas with Elektra.

We are delighted to make music today with our guest performers and to have you experience their artistry. Concert pianist Jane Coop is a Canadian artist of international stature. Every time I’ve heard her in concert, I’ve wanted to share the experience with the choir and with you, and today we have that chance. And we welcome warmly the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir and their director Betty-Ann Vroom. The strong singing tradition of Mennonites in Canada has shaped our choral landscape for generations.

Several years ago, I wrote a list of words that I keep beside me when looking through music that might be included in Chez Nous. The paper is a bit shabby by now, but the words still ring true, reminding me of my goals; to make you feel welcome, to connect you to familiar music, to move you, to surprise you with something new, and to offer even those of you who have never heard Elektra before a sense of the music we present, and what you might expect from us at other concerts in this, our 30th year. I want you to be glad you came, to find today’s concert more than entertaining, and to be glad you experienced this music together with other people. My list? Welcome, Joy, Beauty, Participation, Robust, Sombre Reflection, Surprise, Memory, Relevance.

In addition to the Elektra solo repertoire and massed choir repertoire detailed here, the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir performed the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria”, “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” arranged by Kohan, Grossman & Fraser, and Britten’s “This Little Babe”. Our guest pianist contributed Rachmaninoff’s piano arrangement of Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesleid” and a transcription of Bill Evans’ improvisation on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” She and Stephen Smith performed Mendelssohn’s “Allegro Brillante, op. 92” for piano four-hands, and we sang with the audience a Smith arrangement of “Good King Wenceslas”. Our encore was Britten’s “A New Year Carol”. The concert program is here CHEZ NOUS 2016 Concert Program and my Listener’s Guide here chez-nous-2016-listeners-guide.

Performance Pieces:

  1. Le sommeil de l’Enfant Jésus Traditional French Ron Jeffers (arr) 
  2. Sanctus-Benedictus (from Mass no. 6) Gyorgy Orban
  3. Les anges dans nos campagnes Traditional French Bernat Vivancos (arr) 
  4. Coventry Carol Traditional English Michael McGlynn (arr) 
  5. Christmas Fantasia on Chopin’s Étude in F Major Canadian Work Frédéric Chopin Stephen Smith (arr) 
  6. Ríu Ríu Chíu Canadian Work Traditional Spanish Erica Phare-Bergh (arr) 
  7. In the Bleak Midwinter Gustav Holst Abbie Betinis (arr) 
  8. I’ll Be Home for Christmas K. Gannon, W. Kent, B. Ram Mark Hayes (arr) 
  9. Personent Hodie Traditional English John Rutter (arr) 
  10. What Sweeter Music Canadian Work Eleanor Daley
  11. Night of Silence Daniel Kantor

Canadian Work Legend Canadian Work