Christmas with the Northern Lights

On 7 December 2003, the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus, supported by the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army (Bandmaster Kevin Hayward) and other performers, presented their first annual Christmas concert. The performance was given at the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto.

The Northern Lights Chorus is fifty-member organization which performs in the barbershop style. It is the Toronto chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. The musical director is Steven Armstrong, who also serves as the Songster Leader for the Oshawa Temple Salvation Army. Northern Lights is recognized as a premiere group, winning a silver medal at an international convention held in Montreal in July 2003.

The Canadian Staff Band is internationally known as one of the world’s finest brass bands. The group is attached to the Salvation Army’s headquarters for Canada and Bermuda, located in Toronto.

In addition to the Staff Band and the Northern Lights Chorus, several other musical guests joined in the celebration. They included guitarist David Chown, who performed as a soloist and also accompanied gospel singers Angela Hustins and Tammy Snow. The quintessential barbershop group is the quartet, represented at this concert by Mirage, 2002 champion quartet for the Ontario District. The music forces of the host church were represented by organist Dr. Patricia Wright.

Featured items during the concert included Shepherds Come Quick, with soloists Matt Dratva and Brian Etmanski. Another highlight was Come and See What’s Happenin’ in the Barn, performed by the “Barn”quartet: John Mallett, Ted Church, Steve Picyk and Steven Armstrong. One of the most elaborate sets performed by the chorus was You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, narrated by Rob Lamont, and featuring Graham Keith as the Grinch and Jeanine, Amber and Braedon Sziklasi as the “Grinch Kids”. Other soloists included Steve Picyk, singing Silent Night, and Tammy Snow, singing Merry Christmas, Darling.

The Staff Band supported audience participation, joining with the church’s organist to accompany carols. They also presented several solo items, including Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival (arr. William Gordon), Erik Leidzén’s transcription of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, March from "The Nutcracker" (Tchaikovsky, arr. Keith Wilkinson), Gesu Bambino (arr. Thomas Mack), another of Leroy Anderson’s familiar winter works, Sleigh Ride (in an arrangement written for the Staff Band by Ken Smith), and Soulful Hallelujah, a version of the Hallelujah Chorus in modern gospel idiom.

Sources:
Canadian Staff Band web site
Toronto Northern Lights Chorus web site