To help fellow Cape Bretoners get in the holiday spirit, The Second Wind Community Band and the Westmount United Church present “A Festival of Carols”, on Sunday, December 11, 7:30 pm, at Cape Breton University’s Boardmore Playhouse.
The concert features the Concert Band and their special guests, the Cape Breton Chordsmen, Kelcie Burke, Charlotte Dornadic and some yuletide surprises with CBC-Radio Mainstreet host Wendy Bergfeldt as emcee.
Proceeds from the pay what you can donation admission will go in support of the Every Women’s Center Adopt-a-Family program. Because seating is limited, tickets are being issued to guarantee everyone a seat and they may acquired in Sydney at Long and McQuade (Charlotte Street) or Mercer’s Service Center (Esplanade).
Laura Mercer, Second Wind‘s co-conductor and part-time French horn player, fills us in on some of the history, development, and finer details of A Festival of Carols:
“In the earlier years we would play with the Junior High School band program, where we rehearse, at their Christmas Concerts. I think we may have started doing our own Christmas concert when the band was approximately 10 years old. Up to that point we would connect with Monica MacNeil, the band teacher from Riverview, and we would collaborate and do a Christmas presentation together.”
“As the band matured musically, their confidence started to grow and it was time to create our own event. Maybe around 2003, a friend of mine was the minister of Westmount United Church and we discussed creating an annual musical event for his church at Christmas time. So we came up with the title ‘A Festival of Carols’. We wanted to keep it simple and just have some entertainment and have the audience able to sing along with the band and maybe have a special guest but also have a reflective portion to the concert to remind folk how fortunate we are to be able to share our music with them.”
“This year we have some more ambitious pieces for the band to tackle. It is a festival of carols and our mission is to find interesting arrangements of our favourite carols, but I asked about a non-Christmas piece from the Chordsmen that has become a favourite of mine. We have an interesting piece called ‘A Magical Christmas’ that is not familiar with the normal carols however, you could say, oh, that sounds a bit like a ‘Gloria’ or ‘Sleigh Ride’ or ‘Silent Night’, but it is a series of six short movements that set the stage for the season.”
“Kelcie Burke is a nine year old little girl with a powerful voice and lots of confidence and she’s a member of the church. So when we have the spot in our concert which is about the children and we lead to the section where a member of the Every Women’s Center speaks, we will have Kelcie sing with the band and then the children in the audience can come up to the stage and gather around Charlotte Dornidic, sitting in our rocking chair by the Christmas Tree where she’ll read a special story to the kids.”
“We started (rehearsing for this concert) with a couple of our charts when we resumed rehearsals in September right on the registration day. It’s a fun way to start and to remind folk that we have to start early. And for Sean (McLennon, Second Wind’s co-conductor and tuba player) and I, we need to create a bit of a flow for the concert and to see what the band could handle. For the most part, we know who’s coming back but there is a bit of transiency in the band, especially when the university students graduate or high school students graduate and move to another area to go to school. So we have to see what the band will be able to handle or what they will sound like. Usually, when we play our first Christmas chart in September, we get a few groans as well as laughs.”
“There are many reasons why we chose the Every Women’s Center. My reason is that many of the institutions and national or international groups get the benefits of Christmas givings and fundraisers. So I wanted something that our community would benefit directly from. And at Christmas time, I always believed that the children needed to be looked after first and then the parents. This was a perfect fit for us. And the church felt the same way. We have many folk in the band who are connected to many organizations and we all agreed that this was a perfect way our mandate would fit–a community group helping out a community organization. And we have that same mandate for our spring presentation in June when we do our concert for the l’Arche Cape Breton community. And also just before Christmas Day, CBC winds down its Feed Nova Scotia Foodbanks drive and the band plays Christmas Carols at their skating party at Center 200. This year it is on Friday, December 23rd. And every year we have been able to support no less than three families. Each year we grew.”
“It is so great to see how the band has grown as we needed to play on a bigger stage to let our music soar. So at our June concert we tried playing at the playhouse at CBU. We were shocked at how great the band sounded. And we decided that from now on we would always play on a bigger stage that helps us play even better, and plus we can be seen better which I know the audience enjoys. So when it came to Christmastime, we asked the Church if we could do this and they were so agreeable and excited to embrace this growth and change. And this also has increased our audience numbers too. Plus we have been able to include a variety of different special guests from the community as well. This is so wonderful for the confidence of the band, but they too feel very special playing on a classy stage to a lovely audience.”