Gord Turner: Castlegar lights and voices inspire

As Christmas approaches, we see and hear much that is only available this time of year.

As Christmas approaches in all its abundance and glory, we see and hear much that is only available this time of year.

Houses and businesses are decorated with thousands of sparkling lights. Some of the lights are set in designs meant to depict aspects of the season. As we drive around, we are greeted by lit-up trees, Santas, stars, crosses, reindeer, and candles—to name a few.

What’s been added in the past two or three years are the plastic blow-up figures representing snowmen, various animals, Santas, candles, sleighs, and cartoon figures as various as Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse. These often are set on snowy lawns and sometimes are linked across roof tops. The lights, designs, colours, and figures are amazing and profuse, an array of plenty in the yards and along the roadways.

In the stores, we are overwhelmed by decorated trees, artistic window designs, and Christmas-related music. Songs like White Christmas, Blue Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claus, and Jingle Bell Rock dominate the radio airwaves. These very same songs are used thematically on television programs. We can’t escape the season and all its exuberance and spirit.

Nor would we want to. I found this magical joy in the many children’s concerts I attended, some as a grandparent, a few as a decked-out North Pole visitor. I discovered it during the visit of the Christmas train and the huge crowds that turned out. It also appeared on Columbia Avenue during the annual round-and-round Christmas parade with flaming barrels to warm a child’s hands and an old-timer’s heart.

A special Christmas event that set all my senses aglow took place at the Castle Theatre. The Kootenay Choir filled the air with song and music so stimulating and inventive that many of us carried the tunes to bed with us. It was strange to wake up at 3:30 a.m. with my mind and body humming one of the choir’s offerings.

In some ways, the evening took on the resonance of a variety performance. There were so many different musical spots in time that the audience never got a chance to settle in. That was a good thing because just when we thought we knew what was coming next, the pattern changed. We had traditional carols, Broadway pieces, mystery songs, medleys, and tunes from 400 years ago.

Tied in with these musical and song variations were the Wind River Quartet who amazed us with their flute-playing of “Shepherd” and “Let it Snow.” As well, it was a treat to hear the soloists, the special voices of singers such as Chris Sykes, Carla Terava, Cathy Bogle, Carol Andrews, and the brilliant choirmaster herself, Christina Nolan. In addition, everyone loved Gloria Manning-Smee’s version of “Away in a Manger’ accompanied by her own guitar.

One number that blew the socks off of everyone was “Carol of the Bells” sung by several community choir members. The song was actually a number of sounds repeated over and over by different singers. The only comparison I can think of is the 1950’s doo-wop sound that had similar repetitive voices. Anyway, it was an astonishing performance of voices based on a Pentatonix 2016 album.

Another feature throughout the evening was the audience participation. We sang along with the choir and had a go at “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Must be Santa,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” It was one of those evenings that left everyone completely satisfied.

The entire community should shower dedicated choir leader, Christina Nolan, and spectacular accompanist, Alicia Liszt, with roses and garlands—and kudos for a job well done.

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