MORRISBURG – A full and enthusiastic house greeted the over 60 members of the Westmount Youth Orchestra, from the greater Montreal region, who held a concert, A Festival of Christmas, at St. James Anglican Church on Sunday, December 9.
The appearance of the Youth Symphony was arranged through Isabelle Delage and Tilted Steeple Productions, with volunteer support from the parish of St. James and other members of the community.
The Orchestra was directed by Maestro Jean MacRae, master of violin, piano and voice and a much sought after soloist, chamber musician and teacher. She has been the Westmount’s director since 2011.
The Concert Master, a violinist with the Orchestra, Mathilde Biard, tuned her fellow musicians to start off the performance.
Maestro MacRae personally introduced each piece to the audience, sharing biographical and musical information about the composers, while delighting the crowd with her unique sense of humour.
The talented young musicians of the Westmount Youth Orchestra range in age from five to 25. During the concert they presented a varied, lively and memorable program of some of the most beautiful music of the Christmas season. (They began the concert with one exception, a special new addition to their repertoire, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture.) From there, as Maestro MacRae put it, the program was made up of “nothing but the music of the festive season.”
Pieces ranged from three classic movements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to Leroy Anderson’s exuberant Sleigh Ride. MacRae even delighted the crowd by an impromptu step dance to Anderson’s hilarious “load of nonsense,” Fiddle Faddle.
The audience had one surprise during the concert that they were not expecting.
A group of local singers had worked together secretly to prepare a special piece of music. During the performance (with the willing collusion of the conductor and orchestra) this group suddenly rose to their feet and sang the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah live.
“It wasn’t a flash mob in the strictest sense,” Isabelle Delage laughed, “but we did preserve an element of surprise and delight.” Members of the audience were thrilled at the performance.
Later the audience itself joined the Orchestra to sing some of the season’s best-loved Christmas carols.
“Jean MacRae told me that in Montreal every Christmas when she tries to get the audience to sing along to the carols, people are mostly too shy to join in,” Isabelle said.
“I reassured her that this would not be an issue here and the Morrisburg audience did not disappoint. The entire audience filled the church with their singing.”
At the end of the concert, the audience rose to its feet to applaud a truly memorable performance by a group of exceptionally talented young people.
The director and the Orchestra waived their fees for the Morrisburg concert. Funds raised are going directly to the Community Food Share, the Madagascar School Project and to help support local refugee sponsorship efforts.
“I spoke to many of the musicians after the event and they told me how much they had enjoyed the experience and Morrisburg’s hospitality,” Isabelle said.
“They remarked how beautiful St. James was. When I asked if they would consider coming back again another year, the answer was a resounding yes.”