A Classical Christmas concert by the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra (RMSO) is set to bring the spirit of Christmas to rural audiences on Dec. 9 at the The Polaris Theatre in Balzac.
For those on the fence about classical music, Carlos Foggin, RMSO founder and music director, said there is no better time to come to an orchestral concert than Christmas time, as the music is recognizable and everyone will find something that they like.
“There’s beautiful stuff; there's harps; there's these beautiful flute duets that we're doing,” Foggin explained. “And then if you like the big, bold kind of festive stuff, we're doing the ‘Carol of the Bells’ with all these bell players. The trombones and trumpets are just blazing at some points, so there's really just something from the most delicate to just the raucous. We have a lot of fun.”
While a lot of Christmas concerts are drenched in jingle bells and Santa Claus, Foggin said this Christmas Concert will have a more subtle holiday influence.
“What we’ve chosen to do this time is to highlight some classical music that nods to the season,” Foggin said.
The concert will kick off with Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival," a staple of classical Christmas concert performances.
Up next is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on 'Greensleeves,’” a traditional English folk song that was initially used in the third act of Williams' Shakespeare-inspired opera, "Sir John In Love".
Cellist Liz Tremblay will then be taking on Joseph Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in C,” composed around 1765.
“Anything that is from that early classical or late Baroque period just seems so elegant and light and festive to me,” Foggin said. “It might be because of Handel's ‘Messiah’ and Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio,’ or in that same vein, but this Haydn ‘Cello Concerto’ just seems so seasonal, despite having no connotations to Christmas at all.”
According to the RMSO website, the “Cello Concerto” collected dust for nearly 200 years in the National Museum in Prague before it became a staple of the cello repertoire.
“[Tremblay] is one of the kindest human beings you will ever meet, first of all, and she happens to also be a fantastic musician,” Foggin said.
Tremblay was born in England and studied at some top schools in England. For a decade she played in Bermuda and has been RMSO’s principal cellist since its inception in 2016.
Foggin explained the orchestra showcases its principal players as soloists throughout the season, with the annual “Mozart’s Birthday” concert featuring the principal oboist, and the principal trombone being featured in May.
After intermission, the orchestra will ease the audience into some more Christmas pieces with Richard Hayman’s “Carol of Bells,” Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s “A Carol Symphony,” and Alan Silvestri’s suite from “The Polar Express.”
Foggin explained that Hutchinson was born in South Africa, was educated at the best schools in England, and his father was actually the governor of South Africa. He died unexpectedly in 1947.
“After the war, fuel was rationed and in an act of compliance or defiance, you choose, he refused to turn on the radiator in his office and he caught a cold, which eventually turned into pneumonia and killed him,” Foggin said.
“This is one of the big things that he left us, was this classical symphony.”
The tunes woven into this “Symphony” are actually English Christmas carols, he added.
“The Carol Symphony” is also steeped in British TV history, according to the RMSO website.
Tickets are going fast, Foggin said, but for readers in the south of Rocky View County, RMSO is also coming to Red Deer Lake United Church with the same concert on Dec. 8.
Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found online at rockymountainsymphony.ca/christmas.