Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra shines minds

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra put the spirits on Friday night by presenting the first of three weekend Holiday Pops performances conducted by Julian Pellicano, celebrating local talent here in our own snowy backyards.

One of the early highlights was Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter and storyteller Raine Hamilton. This last ballad, sung with sincerity, added a sweet note of grace to the overall program, with Hamilton’s dedication of the piece to “those we have lost, but keep in our hearts”, reflecting the often very complex emotional stream of the holiday season.

Another turned out to be ‘Twas the Night before Christmas,’ featuring new WSO Executive Director Angela Birdsell as the first of three weekend storytellers to recite the beloved children’s tale. Her lively sporting performance, although wearing a lime green “onesie” adorned with pom poms, made it really entertaining; also received grateful applause from orchestra members.

The most powerful moment of the concert belonged to traditional singer / drummer Walking Wolf Ray “Co-Co” Stevenson and Kael Sauerborn. (Photo by Chronic Creative)

The highlight of the evening came with traditional Walking Wolf singer / drummer Ray “Co-Co” Stevenson and Kael Sauerborn, who actually shut down the show with Pellicano’s arrangement of “Comes to Light”, bolstered by multimedia artist James Culleton magical and spellbinding shadow theater. Their heartfelt song describing the ‘homecoming’ of the spirits of countless Indigenous children murdered as a result of residential schools sounded raw, real, and well deserved the mid-evening standing ovation from the deeply moved crowd – showing the power of art to heal, or at least perhaps, heal the still gaping wounds of injustice.

Sixteen members of the world-renowned Ukrainian dance ensemble Rusalka from Winnipeg left us begging for more with their overly brief, yet still dazzling performance of Ca Claque’s equally cheerful and energetic “Polissian Dance”! composed of Franco-Manitoban and Métis dancers and musicians in “Jigsaw Jig”. And what a pleasure to see beaming smiles again – and even human expression – in today’s ubiquitous sea of ​​masked faces.

Not to be outdone, Winnipeg outfielder Katerina MacGregor of Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troupe wowed viewers with her hanging silks, performing as a flexible angel above the stage during the gentler “Fantasia on Greensleeves” and softer by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Pellicano, who served as the bubbling host throughout the evening, paid tribute to the “unsung heroes” of the symphonic pop series, that is to say the arrangers who got the better of their just what is theirs. from. One of them is Maria Fuller of Saskatchewan, who created a clever rendition of Mykola Leontovych’s “Carol of the Metallic Bells”, while Morton Gould later has a highly textured orchestration of “Jingle Bells” by Mykola Leontovych. James Pierpont, including oozy modulations and even more woozier trombone glissandi – crowned with repetitive, insistent burlesque strikes suggesting a horse is whipped to death – has now earned the title of the most bizarre arrangement in this classic. parties this writer has never heard.

Winnipeg outfielder Katerina MacGregor of Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troupe wowed viewers with her hanging silks.  (Photo by Chronic Creative)

Winnipeg outfielder Katerina MacGregor of Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troupe wowed viewers with her hanging silks. (Photo by Chronic Creative)

Second prize goes to Tim Berens’ “A Winter Miracle”, a fearless and ambitious mix of Vivaldi’s “Winter” from his violin concertos “The Four Seasons” juxtaposed with the Jewish Festival of Lights song, “Hanukkah , Oh Hanukkah ”. despite the passionate solo performance of solo violin Gwen Hoebig. Yet layering the baroque masterpiece with the children’s melody had its proverbial and revealing “aha” moments, though it certainly takes a leap of faith to imagine the gusts and storms of “winter” in. the middle eastern cradle of the ancient rite.

It wouldn’t be a Holidays Pops gig without Leroy Anderson’s hugely popular ‘Sleigh Ride’, with Pellicano – now with his own slapstick in hand on the podium – soaring high. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet score “The Nutcracker” became another highlight; allowing us to fully hear the beauty of Donna Laube’s heavenly delicate and Richard Turner’s magnificently lyrical harp during “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Waltz of the Flowers”, respectively; now detached from the tempo requirements required of ballet dancers.

Missing from the action this year was the annual Christmas carol, no doubt due to pandemic restrictions, although the entire orchestra wished us a “Happy Holidays!” Muffled. from inside their masks which ultimately led to a final standing ovation, made us all return home happy and hopeful for better days to come.

The concert is rehearsed in person and by live broadcast on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets or more information visit:

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