Peace is the one thing Claude Lapalme hopes listeners will take away from the Seasonal Strings concert at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.
The Red Deer Symphony Orchestra music director usually struggles to come up with a different theme for the annual Christmas concert. But Lapalme found this year’s motif to be a fairly obvious choice.
With all of the turmoil in Ukraine, the Middle East, and even violence in our own country, with the recent killings of two Canadian soldiers, Lapalme said, “I think we need peace right no. …
“There’s been so much worldwide ruffling of feathers, it makes me uneasy. … I think it’s time to reflect on how much more productive peace can be — and better for your entire psyche.”
The first half of the sold-out Seasonal Strings concert on Saturday, Dec. 6, will be devoted to Christmases of old, with 17th-century selections from France, Germany and Italy.
The second half will feature newer Christmas favourites, played by the RDSO string section (and one percussionist), along with musicians from the Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra.
The community orchestra, under the direction of Louise Stuppard, is made up of about 30 musicians ranging from 12-year-olds to adults.
All are thrilled to play with RDSO musicians, said Stuppard. “This is such a great opportunity for students. It’s thrilling. They are excited and have worked really hard (to prepare) for this event.”
On the program are some recognizable carols, including Deck the Halls, as well as less obvious choices that might still be familiar to the audience, such as Veni Veni Emmanuel, Brazilian Sleigh Bells and Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.
“We wanted to do some classical works, as well as some Christmas carols with a twist,” said Stuppard.
The concert will begin with works by Louis-Claude Daquin, Johann Christoph Pez and Antonio Vivaldi, played by RDSO musicians.
All three are fairly quiet, peaceful works, but are influenced by the Christmas traditions of their countries of origin, said Lapalme.
The two selections from Daquin’s Le livre d’orgue were adapted for string instruments instead of the organ they were originally written for — but Lapalme feels “they work extremely well for strings.”
The French tune features a more lilting melody. “In French baroque compositions, they didn’t play the eighth notes straight.
They would swing them a little, so there’s more of a dance feel. The Germans don’t do that,” said Lapalme.
By comparison, Pez’s Pastoral Christmas Concerto sounds more formal, although there is still a “very pretty Christmas-y” sense to the German composition.
Lapalme said Vivaldi’s Concerto in E Major “Il riposo — per il Natale” incorporates the Italian love of pipe music, giving it a pastoral, countryside sensibility.
“It’s the quietest piece Vivaldi ever wrote, since it’s for a nativity scene with the Magi and a sleeping baby.” Even the violin strings are muted.
But anyone who loves Vivaldi, will recognize the composer’s characteristic flourishes, Lapalme added.
“There’s a famous line: Vivaldi only wrote one concerto, but he wrote it 600 times. This is the quiet version.”