What: Victoria Conservatory of Music presents Daniel Lapp’s Home for Christmas
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave.
When: Friday, Dec, 20 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12-$23 from eventbrite.ca, by phone at 250-386-5311 or in person at the Victoria Conservatory of Music box office, 900 Johnson St.
When Daniel Lapp created his B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, one of his first students was Kendel Carson, a prodigious young talent all of nine years old.
A quarter-century later, both teacher and student have gone on to successful careers in music — Lapp with a number of community projects, culminating with his position as the artistic director of Victoria’s Chwyl Family School of Contemporary Music; Carson, as a member of Spirit of the West and the backing band for Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea. They have remained close friends and see each other socially when time permits, but performing together has been an elusive pursuit in recent years.
Lapp always looked for more opportunities to collaborate with Carson, but her busy schedule makes it difficult to do so. Thanks to a favourable hole in her concert calendar, Carson, 35, will join Lapp and hundreds of other on stage for Lapp’s 16th annual Home for Christmas concerts at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall this weekend.
“I have been trying for 10 years, for both the Joy of Life concerts [in May] and Home for Christmas, but she’s never around,” Lapp said. “She’s always somewhere else in the world.”
Carson, who was raised in Victoria but lives in Vancouver, will sing and play fiddle throughout the Christmas-themed event, including a special tribute to Spirit of the West singer John Mann, who died Nov. 20. Carson was very close with Mann and his wife, Jill Daum, and was with Mann and his family at his home in Vancouver during his final days.
The tribute, featuring a singalong to the Spirit of the West hit And If Venice Is Sinking, will be a special one, Carson said. “Both Dan and I have our own personal connections to Spirit, having played with them and been members of the group in different iterations. We have so much love for them and the music they have brought this country. It will be so good to celebrate John and the band in that capacity.”
Togetherness is what Home For Christmas is all about, according to Lapp. Carson and another former student, Adrian Dolan of the Bills, who will also participate in the concerts Friday and Saturday, are “like family” to Lapp, so their contributions are key, he said. Even more special is the involvement of his 13-year-old daughter, Sóley, will sing Wham!’s Last Christmas. Though she has also been tangentially involved with the festival up to this point, Carson said she can already feel how meaningful the events will be for both the audience and the participants.
“This has been the most challenging year of my life for sure, but one of the biggest things that has come from it in a real gift capacity is the depth of friendships that exist in my life, and how many of them really do circle around my musical community and family. Dan and I are great friends and we jam and hang out whenever we can, but he has been a super rock of support for me personally. To be able to come back to Victoria and play with him, and be surrounded by all these great people, I legitimately feel like I am coming home. It’s so satisfying to feel like I belong here. This is one of the most beautiful music communities on Earth, and a lot of it has to do with Dan.”
Lapp, Carson and Dolan will be joined by roughly 200 participants for the concerts, including the 45-member B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, 45-member Folkestra, and 90-member Joy of Life Choir — all groups of Lapp’s creation and stewardship. He will lead them as bandleader through Christmas in Prison by folk singer John Prine and the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want, among others. Lapp also made a special point of including seasonal songs by Canadian artists, including Ian Tyson, Ron Hynes and the Payolas.
“I have this goal which is to help Canadians learn Canadian songs, to the point where they can sing them in harmony throughout their lives,” he said. “We have the content, we just need to figure out a way of implementing it in curriculum for children.”
Other musical outfits will also participate, including the Shiny H’ornaments (saxophonist Ryan Oliver, trumpeter Evan Overman), Swing’n Shepherds (Hammond B3 player Danuel Tate, drummer Issah Contractor, bassist Peter Dowse) and the Strings of Lights house band (cellist Eli Bender, violinist Adrian Dolan and violinist Rowan Osborne). Special mention should be made, Lapp said, of Victoria Conservatory of Music organ and harpsichord instructor Nicholas Fairbank, who will play the Alix Goolden Performance Hall’s beloved 1910 Casavant pipe organ, outfitted with pipes measuring 30 feet in length.
Christmas content will come in other shapes and sizes during the event, including crowd-participation carol singing to Silent Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Lapp said. He’s never quite sure how it will all turn out in the end, but that is part of fun, he said.
“Each year, I have way too much music. It could be a four- hour concert at the flip of a pencil. Coming up with a setlist, I’m quite proud of it. It’s like a work of art at this point, in order to make this concert two 60-minute sets so we’re not there for three-and-a-half hours.”