November is a busy month at Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music. The faculty’s Symphony Orchestra takes to the stage of the Paul Davenport Theatre, November 13 and 14, with an ambitious program that includes Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem, Death and Transfiguration. “It’s very beautiful music about the last moments of somebody’s life,” says conductor Alain Trudel.
The concert also showcases the talents of two young concerto contest winners, with pianist Natalia Skomorokhova performing the first movement of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto No. 5, and saxophonist Mathew Henry playing Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da Camera.
Next up is an operatic double-bill, featuring Maurice Ravel’s L’heure espagnole (The Spanish Hour) and L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Magic), November 21 to 23. Both one-act operas are directed by Michael Cavanagh, and performed by students in the faculty’s prestigious voice program. First performed in 1911, L’heure espagnole is a musical comedy set in a clockmaker’s workshop in Toledo, Spain. L’enfant et les sortilèges had its debut in Monte Carlo in 1925, although Ravel began writing the score in 1917. The plot unfolds like an early 20th-century “Toy Story” as playroom objects come to life and teach a mischievous boy a lesson he won’t soon forget.
“The music is outrageously difficult for the orchestra and the singers,” says Trudel. “The students are very courageous.” www.music.uwo.ca
Handel’s Messiah is the gift that keeps on giving. Despite being debuted in April, it is now a Christmas tradition and most performances play to a packed house, bringing good cheer to the audience as well as the box office.
This season, Orchestra London gives the popular oratorio the Tafelmusik-touch under the baton of Ivars Taurins, December 3 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The orchestra also serves up some lighter holiday fare at Centennial Hall, with a “Christmas Pops” concert for the whole family (December 7) and “A Very Elvis Christmas” (December 12 and 13) featuring award-winning Elvis tribute artist, Stephen Kabakos.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is another staple of the season. This year, two productions give the Victorian classic a decidedly musical twist.
More than one thousand people are expected to deck Centennial Hall on December 10 for the Unity Project’s 7th annual Christmas Carol fundraiser. The pay-what-you-can event features dramatic readings by prominent London lawyers, with musical accompaniment provided by Orchestra London, The London Singers and H.B. Beal Singers.
“Our production of A Christmas Carol carries on Charles Dickens’ own tradition,” notes Sylvia Langer, development manager of the Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness in London. Langer explains that Dickens presented dramatic readings of his popular ghost story, donating all proceeds to local charities for the poor. www.unityproject.ca
Those looking for a more intimate Dickens experience may be interested in John D. Huston’s acclaimed one-man performance of A Christmas Carol, December 21 at Aeolian Hall. The afternoon show will feature the sounds of London’s 20-member Wassail Choir singing Dickensian carols in period costume.
“It’s always a treat for me to perform in an appropriately Victorian environment, and the 1882 built Aeolian Hall really fits the bill,” says Huston on his website. “The hall’s renowned acoustics should make this the intimate theatrical experience that Dickens strove to bring his audiences.” www.aeolianhall.ca
Tenor Ross Mortimer, mezzo-soprano Amanda Perrera and collaborative pianist Denis Jung return to the Aeolian stage for their second annual Carols by Candlelight, December 18.
“After last year’s sold out evening, we hope to once again share our joy and fill the audience with the holiday spirit,” says Mortimer. The trio will perform everything from popular Christmas carols to well-known Gospel selections, with a bit of opera thrown in for good measure.
“There are such deep-rooted traditions and emotions that come with each Christmas song. It’s amazing when people come up to you after a concert and share their unique experiences of the music we just performed,” Mortimer says.
A portion of the evening’s proceeds will support The Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness in London. www.aeolianhall.ca
The New Year kicks off January 10 at Wolf Performance Hall with a chamber music concert featuring six well-known London musicians — Ian Franklin, oboe, Mary Beth Brown, violin, Sharon Wei, viola, Jeremy Hake, cello, Josh Grunmann, piano, and Ron George, French horn.
The concert is the brainchild of Renée Silberman, director of Serenata Music. “I always like to support and promote local talent,” she says.
Mozart’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings is likely the most familiar musical territory covered by the diverse group, who will perform in various combinations. “The idea is to bring very colourful music out of the mothballs,” says Silberman. www.serenatamusic.com
Nicole Laidler is a musician-turned-writer and the owner of Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing. Visit her at spilledink.ca