Christmas in Toronto

December 2010 was again a busy month for the Canadian Staff Band (Bandmaster John Lam), with two annual Christmas events on back-to-back Saturdays.

Christmas with the Salvation Army

The first event was the annual Christmas with the Salvation Army program at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. Guests for this year included the Peterborough Singers (Artistic Director Sydney Birrell), trumpet soloist Michael Baker from New York, organist Ian Sadler and actor Colin Fox.

The Peterborough Singers made up the core of this year’s Festival Chorus, supplemented by Salvation Army songster brigades from London Citadel, North York Temple, Oshawa Temple, Peterborough Temple and Yorkminster Citadel. The massed group sang four selections, including And the Glory from Handel’s Messiah with organist Ian Sadler, Alleluia (Randall Thompson, arr. Leonard Ballantine) accompanied by the Staff Band, Night of the Angel (a work commissioned for the Peterborough Singers in 2009), Every Star Shall Sing a Carol and The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.

Items from the Peterborough Singers, bringing a somewhat classical note to this year’s concert, included works such as Christians, Be Joyful from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, with organ, trumpet and timpani accompaniment. Other notable pieces were O Brilliante Estella (Mark Sirrett) and Gloria from Missa Kenya (Paul Basler), which was sung a capella with only two djembe drums as accompaniment.

Michael Baker delighted the audience with four contrasting numbers – Gloria in Excelsis (Dorothy Gates) on piccolo trumpet, Ray Bowes’ Rhapsody for Cornet and Band, What Child Is This? (Douglas Court) and Blessed Assurance (Stephen Bulla) which featured the soloist playing both flügelhorn and trumpet.

In addition to providing accompaniment for three carols and the holiday song I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the Staff Band’s major contributions to the evening were Carol of the Bells (Jeff Christmas), The Holly and the Ivy (Douglas Court) and Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, transcribed by William Gordon, which was especially appreciated by the audience.

In addition to the musical offerings, dramatist Colin Fox presented a series of readings. The Territorial Commander for Canada and Bermuda, Commissioner William Francis, brought a devotional message. Thanking the Salvation Army for its valuable work in the community was Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley. A surprise moment occurred when Canadian Salvationists Bob and Shirley MacArthur were presented with the Salvation Army’s highest recognition of achievement, the Order of the Founder, for their sacrificial service in the Caribbean Territory over the past 25 years.

32nd Annual Christmas Carol Concert

A week later, the Staff Band was off to St. Paul’s Church for the annual Christmas Carol Concert. This event consists of two performances, both of which are usually packed, and helps the Toronto Star provide gift boxes to 45,000 underprivileged children in the Greater Toronto area. Conductor emeritus Giles Bryant was again in top form, leading massed choirs and the audience with band and organ accompaniment.

The Staff Band contributed two items, The Holly and the Ivy (Douglas Court) and a piece written by Robert Redhead for the Staff Band last year, Christ Is Born!. This work features numerous carols, including A Great and Mighty Wonder (“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”), Huron Carol (“’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”), A Child This Day Is Born and Unto Us a Child Is Born.

Canadian Staff Band web site