Christmas Memories
VIS Musicians share their musical memories

The music of the Christmas season is probably the most powerful for memories as we reminisce about family, friends, and Christmases past. The Vancouver Island Symphony will be once again be filling the theatre with beautiful music of the season to bring those wonderful memories, new and old, flooding back.

The VIS musicians always look forward to the special December performance every year. Many of them have special memories of performances past and family get togethers, so we asked them to share with us.

“My favourite Christmas musical memory will always be my Dad leading Christmas Carols from the family piano, usually with large groups of family (I have a lot of cousins in Vancouver) or friends singing in the way people only can when they know the music by heart. We sang them all: The Sacred (Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night), The Crooners (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), and the Ridiculous (I’m Getting Nuttin’ For Christmas). Many of these we still sing, my kids now learning all the words by heart,” shared Mark Beaty, Principal Double Bass.  “But the strongest musical memory, or maybe musical association I have with Christmas is Handel’s Messiah. I simply never get tired of hearing this masterpiece, probably in part because it is infused with all the other cozy Christmas traditions that filled our home: decorating the tree, games, my mom’s Christmas baking, my hilarious siblings, and if we were really lucky, just enough snow to go sledding, which in Vancouver was basically a Christmas miracle.”

Calvin Dyck, Concertmaster and Guest Conductor for the Christmas Memories performances shared some of his favourite memories. “I have so many memories of Christmas, from the year the power went out for 3 days and we heated up soup in a can by the fire and built mega snow forts in the yard. My brother and I used ice cream buckets to make “snow bricks” and then constructed forts with walls so high that we were completely hidden behind the walls, laughed Calvin. Then there was the Christmas Eve tradition at church where every kid got a goodie bag with peanuts and candy and of course a Christmas Orange! Our epic family gatherings always had to have two tables. One in the dining room for the adults and one in the kitchen which was designated as the “kid’s table” for us and all the cousins.”

Calvin explained that as a professional musician, the weeks leading up to Christmas seem to be the busiest time of the year. It seems that every organization in town is having a Christmas event. There are Christmas recitals, company parties, and special concerts. “Some days I could be in three places at once if I could clone myself,” grinned Calvin.

“But my favourite memory is of the music. The beauty of an acapella “Silent Night” at a candlelight service on Christmas Eve is spine tingling. There is this feeling of peace and hope that comes over everyone as we celebrate the prince of peace,” said Calvin.

“A special memory for me as a child was going to the “Christmas concert” in France which would be when the orchestras splurged on large symphonies and performed great pieces. Impressive size, sounds and the best kind of Christmas memory!” Shared by violist Guyonne Le Louarn.

Heather Walker, French Horn, shared this favourite memory: “The one thing that comes to mind is the one year that I ended up playing 26 Christmas concerts in the month of December. As a freelance musician with different orchestras, we are often engaged by many different groups. In addition to the VIS, that particular year I also played with the Vancouver Symphony, the Vancouver Opera orchestra, Kamloops Symphony, Christmas at the Chan, and The Nutcracker. Definitely a full month of Christmas music! So much fun!” laughed Heather.

The Vancouver Island Symphony will present the magical music of Christmas with a wonderful collection of holiday memories.  This year’s performances are sure to delight – from favourite carols and songs, to exerts from the Nutcracker. The program will include familiar carols such as O Come All Ye Faithful, Jingle Bells, O Holy Night, and Feliz Navidad. “The Island Consort, directed by Bruce Farquharson, will lead the audience in sing-along carols. They will also present an 8-part arrangement of “In Dulci Jubilo”, and the spine-tingling “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.” Calvin shared.

“It is a great honour to conduct the Vancouver Island Symphony. I have such respect for my colleagues, and their wealth of experience. The act of making music together is truly transformational, and I am thrilled to share this special Christmas concert with the Nanaimo audience.” explains Calvin.

Be a part of the tradition and join the Vancouver Island Symphony for a one-hour show (No Intermission) on Friday December 2nd at 7:30 p.m. the Tidemark Theatre and Saturday, December 3rd at 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (2 shows) at the Port Theatre and get into the holiday spirit!

Bring your family and friends and create a new memory or reminisce and celebrate the beauty of the season.

Article written by Christine McAuley