Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Merry TSO Christmas

Tree in Metro Square
outside RTH
The TSO Christmas Concert this year featured guest conductor Jeff Tyzik and narrator Colin Mochrie.  The concert contained typical festive fare with some twists.

The first twist was the opening "A Christmas Overture" which was "Deck the Halls" played in the styles of Mozart, Gabrieli, Count Basie, and Stravinsky.  So cool!

The second was a gorgeous version of "Gesu Bambino" which Tyzik arranged and featured two soloists from the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra on violin and cello.  I particularly liked how he wove in melodies from "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire" giving added interested to the somewhat repetative theme in the main piece.

John Rudolph (
The third was "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer Rag" and featured percussionist John Rudolph on a xylophone that was decorated with Christmas lights.  The piece itself was fun with some impressive playing.

The fourth was a selection of Chanukah songs.  The only one I recognized was the ever popular Dreidel song but the others were really nice and there was a great clarinet solo played by YaoGuang Zhai.  The Festival of Lights has some great music and it was enjoyable to hear some extra variety this time of year.

The highlight of the evening though was the concluding "The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pageant".  This piece was apparently part of the Youth Symphony concert last season and received such great acclaim that it was moved to the main series event this year.  Arranged by Richard Hayman for the St. Louis Symphony, where he worked for 45 years, the TSO is only the second orchestra to have the piece in their library.  Major coup, it's so much fun! (well from the audience perspective anyway, hopefully the orchestra likes it as well).  Narrated by Mr. Mochrie, who did a bang up job of having a dead pan reaction to the flirting calling birds, and interacting with the children who decorated him with eight sets of 5 golden rings.  

The large cast, including Holiday Dancers and the Etobicoke School of the Arts Chorus, embraced their parts enthusiastically, perhaps none moreso then the 10 lords who leapt down the aisle from the rear of the hall.  The orchestra played various segments that fit each day such as (based on my best guesses) The "Theme from Romeo and Juliet" by Tchaikovsky for Day 2's turtle doves, "Aloutte" and the "Can-Can" for Day 3's French hens, "The Wedding March" for the 5 golden rings, "Odette's Theme" from Swan Lake for the Day 7 swans, "Old MacDonald" and "Turkey in the Straw" for eight maids a milkin', "Trepek" from The Nutcracker for the Leaping Lords, and an "Artist's Life Waltz" by Strauss for the nine ladies dancing.  The conclusion with 11 pipers from the Highland Creek Pipes and Drums piping through the choir loft playing "Scotland the Brave" followed shortly there after by 12 drummers drumming the theme from "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" was fantastic.

It's a rather long piece that took up a substantial portion of the second half, so perhaps this need not become a yearly undertaking but maybe it's something the TSO could make tradition by reprising every few years.

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