Finding shelter from the hustle and bustle of Christmas

A beautiful and peaceful antidote to the busy clamour of the holiday season was delivered Saturday night by the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

A beautiful and peaceful antidote to the busy clamour of the holiday season was delivered Saturday night by the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

The Seasonal Strings concert at the Red Deer College Arts Centre was planned as a respite from the “bombardment” of Christmas music, said the RDSO’s music director Claude Lapalme.

“At this time we are assaulted with music. And those are two words I don’t like to see together,” he added.

This year, Lapalme thought he’d try a more low-key approach to planning the holiday concert — and it was welcomed by a full-house crowd, made up (I suspect) of many other people who’d spent much of Saturday immersed in the commercial side of the season.

Bring on the peace, I mused. We’re more than ready for a little tranquility. And you couldn’t get much lovelier, or more restful, than Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in E major “Il riposo — per il Natale,” a baroque melody played on muted instruments.

A reduced orchestra of only RDSO strings musicians performed this intimate concerto that started with first violinist Naomi Delafield playing a wavering solo. The second movement was almost like a slow dance, with its trilling, intricate melody picking up steam before eventually finding its way back to peaceful.

This one was an audience favourite.

Next up were six short movements from German composer Johann Christoph Pez’s Pastoral Christmas Concerto. Pez wrote music in the lilting French style, said Lapalme — with Italian flourishes, since there are pipe-like sounds representing the shepherds who visit Baby Jesus in the nativity.

The RDSO strings musicians used long bow strokes to create a measured melody that became more vigorous in the second movement — although not energetic enough to make any musician break a sweat.

The third movement was stately and, again, calm. But this baroque concerto became quicker and more joyous before swinging back to restive. In the latter movements, Delafield carried on an interesting melodic duet with fellow violinist Diane Lane, and the two were accompanied by Janet Kuschak on cello.

The melody line soared, ending on a happy note.

The second half of the concert start with selections from Louis-Claude Daquin’s Le livre d’orgue. This (third) baroque work was originally written for organ, a hugely popular instrument in the 17th century (“today it’s a bit different, cache for organists has somehow withered,” noted Lapalme). It was later adapted for a strings orchestra.

While the Daquin piece worked well enough for the audience, some poor strings musicians had to perpetually play one note to mimic the organ’s drone. While the cellos, violins and bass traded off between providing the endless droning sound and variations on a sprightly melody, the musicians’ one-note duty seemed immensely ponderous.

I could have done without the drone entirely if it meant not having to feel sorry for anyone.

The energy level on stage went up several notches with the entry of the Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra, which doubled the number of strings musicians to about 50.

These talented 12-year-old to adult musicians, under the direction of Louise Stuppard, the RDSO’s second violinist, created a wonderful, auditorium-filling sound while performing mostly Christmas music with the symphony orchestra.

Tranquility was again the theme to pieces, such as the gorgeous O Magnum Mysterium by U.S. composer Morten Lauridsen. This choral work, performed sans choir, gave the audience a chance to appreciate the power of the music unadorned by voices. It was so emotional and moving it gave me the shivers.

Another show-stopper was the traditional O Come, O Come Emmanuel. This soulful melody really showed the aural splendour of 50 string musicians playing together.

One unseasonal work, Reverie by James Corigliano, was also performed, but fit the requirements of being quiet and contemplative. Otherwise, two livelier works were also on the bill — Deck The Halls, which was played with a drum kit and still managed to sound laid-back, and Percy Faith’s charming Brazilian Sleigh Bells, which featured jingly percussion.

This piece prompted Lapalme to muse about which rainforest animal could be substituted for reindeer. “Maybe you could (attach a sleigh) to those giant spiders . . . who ever wrote this would have to be fanciful . . . ”

The collaborative concert between the RDSO and the Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra ended with a well-deserved standing ovation. It was a wonderful time-out from all the bluster and business of the season.

“My wish is that you not only find joy, but find peace,” said Lapalme.

The RDSO certainly gave us a push in the right direction with its splendid, relaxed Seasonal Strings concert.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read