With all the rampant consumerism around, it’s easy to feel the Yuletide spirit eluding us.
But at its core Christmas is a family event that embraces and showcases children. Leading the way with generosity and virtuosity is the Royal Canadian Artillery Band as they prepare for another exhilarating A Christmas Wish 2011 on Sunday, Dec. 4 at the Winspear Centre.
This sixth annual benefit concert has become a tradition that supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation Northern Alberta, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Band conductor Eric Gagnon stated that the tradition started after a serving couple, Sgt. Mary Berg-Martens and Warrant Officer Frank Martens’ son developed brain cancer.
“We are so happy to be at the Winspear doing it for such a great cause,” says Gagnon.
Last year the concert raised about $4,000 with all proceeds going to the foundation. But the average cost to make a wish come true is roughly $7,000.
“My personal wish is to collect enough money to grant one wish.”
In past years, children’s wishes included meeting sports figures and movie stars, travelling to Hawaii, Disneyland and Ireland as well as building a clubhouse and receiving a gaming computer.
This year the pipe and drum, brass and reed band has a complement of 39 players including 12 reservists from Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton. In the last two years, the military band has incorporated a more contemporary flavour adding electric bass, guitar and singer Sgt. Janine Bremault-Bamford.
The eclectic program is divided into three parts: Christmas repertoire, a nod to St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery, and an homage to the troops.
“While we play music, we will show a special video that recognizes the fallen. You will also see what the soldiers have accomplished helping children, women and men, and you will see that their lives are not in vain.”
To add a dash of lustre to the event, Gagnon has invited the illustrious Richard Eaton Singers with its full 100 voices.
Christmas music lovers can look forward to Leroy Anderson’s jingling Sleigh Ride; the RES performing Händel’s Hallelujah and Bremault-Bamford singing O Holy Night.
There’s even a rare rendition of Frosty the Snowman with Sgt. Leonard Winsor playing a bass trombone solo in the lowest register.
And since St. Barbara’s Day also falls on Dec. 4, Gagnon pays tribute with Eternal Father and Entr’acte, a work originally composed for Nova Scotia’s International Tattoo in 1986.
“With this concert you can enjoy Christmas with family and friends, honour the troops and help children. You can do so much in one afternoon.”
A Christmas Wish 2011
Royal Canadian Artillery Band
Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $10/adults; $5/children. Call 780-428-1414 or go online to: www.winspearcentre.com