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Mayor Flewwelling adding voice to concert

He’s used to public speaking, but Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling is finding that public reading takes a little getting used to — especially with orchestral accompaniment.

Being a high-profile local citizen of Welsh descent, Flewwelling was asked to read Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales at the next Red Deer Symphony Orchestra concert — Christmas From the British Isles, on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Gaetz Memorial United Church.

RDSO music director Claude Lapalme has written an original orchestral score to go with the literary work.

And Flewwelling is whole-heartedly embracing his role with at-home rehearsals critiqued by his wife, Hazel.

“She’s my coach,” said the mayor, who is buoyed by Dylan’s “exquisitely” nuanced language, alliteration and humour, which is interwoven throughout his nostalgic reminiscences about childhood Christmases.

Flewwelling particularly likes reading the passage about the eternal snowfall, which Thomas later qualifies by saying “eternal, ever since Wednesday.”

“Now if I only had Dylan Thomas’s plummy accent,” the mayor regretfully added.

But in Lapalme’s estimation, the mayor has a great voice and so was an obvious choice for the job.

“I called the office and said, ‘Can you think of a certain Welsh-named mayor with a really beautiful voice who could do this?’ ” said Lapalme, with a chuckle.

As necessity breeds invention, so did the RDSO’s limited season budget spark a winning, yet thrifty idea — why not get a local celebrity to read from a well-loved piece that’s orchestrated by an original score written by Lapalme?

The music director couldn’t find pre-existing orchestrated music for the prose, so decided to compose it himself.

He already has a reputation for pulling off orchestral adaptations of popular music, such as tunes written by Ian Tyson and Joni Mitchell.

In the case of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Lapalme looked to various Christmas carols for inspiration and settled on a traditional known as The Welsh Carol, as well as Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Good King Wenceslas and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

He cautions that not all the carols will be easily recognizable because “they have been transfigured into happy Christmas music.”

Along with the 20-minute reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, the Calgary Boy’s Choir will sing the 11 works that comprise Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.

Lapalme believes this presentation, along with solo harp accompaniment, will be a special treat for the audience in the acoustically excellent church setting. But listeners probably won’t realize how hard Britten’s pieces are to sing.

“Britten was just merciless,” said Lapalme, noting that many of these tunes are actually Mid-English texts he set to original music.

The orchestra will perform other pieces from the British Isles, including John Henry Gauntlett’s Anglican standard, Once in Royal David’s City, Gustav Holst’s See Amid the Winter’s Snow, and two traditionals from Ireland and Scotland — Curoo Curoo — Carol of the Birds and Auld Lang Syne.

“I think it’s going to be a very beautiful concert, with some warm, cosy, nostalgic aspects to it,” said Lapalme.

The performance will also feature harpist Gianetta Baril of Calgary. She regularly accompanies the Calgary Boys Choir, and also teaches at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.

Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $53.70 ($51.70 for seniors and $38.20 for youths) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.



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