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For our third Christmas concert of the season, it was the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s turn to uplift its audiences this week with holiday cheer in a program called Canadian Brass Christmas. Yesterday afternoon at Roy Thomson Hall, the Canadian Brass and the Etobicoke School of the Arts joined the symphony for a program of traditional carol arrangements, music from Christmas films, an audience sing-along, and a sprinkling of humour with an appearance by Santa himself. 

The TSO, with most of its principal players taking the week off, came ready for a Christmas party with many wearing Santa hats or colourful clothes. Nevertheless, they settled in quickly to the business of full-spirited brass and percussion fanfare sounds with Christmas Overture, an ebullient work by Jeff Tyzik based on Good King Wenceslas.

When the Etobicoke School for the Arts Choir joined the orchestra with music from the film The Polar Express, it was easy to tell that the singers were comfortable in this genre. Indeed, the choir is made up of students all majoring in Musical Theatre at the school. Their amplified sound projected well with energy and musicality. They were included in several pieces throughout the concert. I was most impressed by their singing in Nutcracker Jingles, an arrangement that combined the Tchaikovsky ballet and Jingle Bells.

The program’s headliners, Canada’s remarkable brass quintet, entered the hall from the rear and proceeded down the aisle like a New Orleans gospel band playing Just a Closer Walk with Thee. The Canadian Brass, led by their tuba player, Chuck Dellenbach, has been performing since 1970. At the time, the ensemble was made up of a young group of orchestral musicians from the Hamilton Philharmonic who wanted to engage audiences with their performances by adding educational and entertaining components. Although the Canadian Brass has gone through personnel changes throughout the years, it continues to perform all over the world with the remarkable Dellenbach is still at the helm close to fifty years later. 

Canadian Brass, Etobicoke School for the Arts Choir, Guest Conductor Lucas Waldin and TSO; Photo Credit: Jag Gundu

Canadian Brass, Toronto Symphony and the Etobicoke School of the Arts combine to give festive Christmas cheer!​

In customary style, The Canadian Brass took over for most of the remainder of the concert performing alone, with orchestra and with choir. I was most impressed by their Luther Henderson arrangement of Go Tell It On the Mountain. Each of the members had solos: screeching high trumpet, the seductive flugelhorn, and the smooth sounding trombone leading the way. I can never get enough of the wonderful blend of this group of fine musicians.

Guest conductor Lucas Waldin doubled as the concert’s master of ceremonies. Waldin, not a stranger to the TSO, has built a formidable reputation conducting “pops” programs with orchestras across Canada and the US. Originally from Toronto, he is the recipient of the Jean-Marie Beaudet Award in Orchestra Conducting by the Canada Council. He conducted the varied numbers efficiently and moved the program along.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra will close out its 2017 year with five performances of Handel’s Messiah from December 18-23. The conductor will be Matthew Halls ​and the soloists will be soproano Karina Gauvin, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Frédéric Antoun, and baritone Joshua Hopkins. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir will once again sing the mighty choruses

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON December 13th 2017

Bernard Scully, horn; Chris Coletti, trumpet; Achilles Liarmakopoulos, trombone; Chuck Dellenbach, tuba; Caleb Hudson, tumpet; Lucas Waldin, conductor and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Photo Credit: Jag Gundu