SURREY — A pair of concerts at Bell Performing Arts Centre will help celebrate the 25th anniversary of a Christmas tradition in Metro Vancouver.
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s “A Traditional Christmas” concert tour again rolls through the region, starting Friday, Dec. 8 at Vancouver’s St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church and concluding Sunday, Dec. 17 at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre.
As always, the tour includes two performances in Surrey — this year on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Sullivan Heights Secondary theatre, at 4 p.m. and again at 7:30.
The concerts give audiences a chance to “kick off your holiday season on the perfect note,” according to a post at vancouversymphony.ca.
Some Christmas classics are performed, of course (“O Holy Night,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Ave Maria” and more are planned this year), along with audience sing-along favourites (including “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Silent Night,” and “Angels We Have Heard On High”).
This year’s tour features the return of Christopher Gaze as host, along with conductor William Rowson, the EnChoir choir conducted by Gerald van Wyck, and director Nancy Hermiston’s UBC Opera Ensemble.
(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO, FROM 2013)
In Surrey, the VSO’s Christmas-month tradition began in 1998 at the Chandos Pattison Auditorium in the Fraser Heights area, and, four years later, carried on at the Bell Performing Arts Centre at Sullivan Heights.
Gaze, the man behind the hugely successful Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival in Vancouver, has been the voice of the concerts, as host, for more than two decades.
His relationship with the VSO began in 1993 when the orchestra was hired to perform on the festival’s summer stage. In return, the orchestra hired Gaze for concerts during the pre-Christmas season.
“I write the stories, or find them from other sources, and link them all together,” he told the Now in 2008. I include everything you would consider to be Christmas, in spoken words. Sometimes I’ll get emails from people who have a beautiful Christmas story — something from when they were young, whatever — and I tell those stories, too. If I like it, we’ll include it.”
Before coming to Canada in the mid-1970s, Gaze grew up in the Surrey area of England and went to a boarding school in Sussex.
“My sense of Christmas tradition, my joy of this season, comes from that school, where I was always a choirboy, so I was always very much part of the celebration of Christmas, with music,” he added.
“They didn’t do Dickens or Dylan Thomas or anything like that, of course, but there was always a sense of beauty and wonder of it all. That’s what I really like to engender — and, of course, fun.”
VSO conductor Rowson grew up in musical family, starting the violin at age three in his hometown of Saskatoon. In 2014, Rowson debuted as a film composer at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with his score to the feature-length film Big Muddy.
“(He) is rapidly establishing a reputation as one of Canada’s most versatile emerging talents,” the orchestra’s website states. “Known for his intimate knowledge of the standard repertoire as well as his facile handling of new repertoire, Rowson recently won the position of Assistant Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.”