Voices and bells tuned for annual concert
The Many Moods of Christmas takes place Monday
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Dec 08, 2012 06:00 am
The Many Moods of Christmas
Greenwood Singers and University of Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers
Monday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church
10025 – 105 St.
Tickets: $20/adults; $18/students, seniors
Music director Robert de Frece lays the blame for his repertoire choice squarely on hip surgery.
“I was laid up all summer and had lots of time to research. Can you imagine, picking Christmas music in August,” says de Frece, describing the uplifting sounds of The Many Moods of Christmas playing at First Presbyterian Church on Monday, Dec. 10.
The concert is an annual event that’s been going on for many years. Following its traditional format, de Frece is once again bringing together the Greenwood Singers, which he founded in 1980, and the University of Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers, a pet project that was created eight years later.
The pride of Edmonton, the 14-person bell choir, which includes St. Albert’s Jonathan Backs, is the largest in Canada with 75 bells and 37 chimes. Over the last two decades these wizards of winter have stunned and delighted crowds with their quick-witted manual dexterity.
In fact, these light-footed operators open the concert with Douglas Wagner’s Christmas Bell Overture, a dynamic scoring of bells touted as the perfect ensemble showpiece.
“The ringers are very busy and they really have to work. You have to be rhythmically strong and read rhythms well. You’re playing anywhere from five to 11 bells. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
But the concert’s true centrepiece is the Spirit of the Season from The Polar Express. The 42-voice choir, which includes singers Linda Gibson of St. Albert and Lauren Rankin of Morinville, sang this angular melody with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra last year.
Charmed by Spirit of the Season, de Frece put his gifts to use as an arranger in the Glen Ballard/Alan Silvestri picture book-like composition. Providing support is Marnie Giesbrecht (organ), Helen Stuart (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass) and Murray Smith (drums).
“It’s a really exciting piece. To keep the excitement going, it keeps changing keys. The whole piece just builds and builds,” de Frece adds.
In a salute to Advent, the program also embraces three contemplative late Renaissance Latin motets composed by Hans Leo Hassler. Immediately following are three fresh contemporary treatments of As I Was A-Walking, Rejoice and Sing This Christmas Morn, and Child of Purity embedded with deep jazz chords.
After the intermission, the ringers weave several orchestral favourites into a set of holiday magic. Closing this seasonal ride is a carol-sing of movie favourites – old familiars such as Here Comes Santa Claus, Sleigh Ride and Home for the Holidays.
“A good concert is like a tasty, well-balanced meal. You have an inviting appetizer, a wonderful entrée and a fine dessert. I work on the premise there is great music in every genre. I’ve selected music that not only the audience will enjoy, but the performers will also enjoy communicating. It’s a Christmas feast with something for everyone.”