HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave.
When: Friday, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15.26-$27.17 from the Victoria Conservatory of Music (250-386-5311) or showpass.com
A contagious energy is the crux of what makes musician, bandleader, choir director and bon vivant Daniel Lapp so beloved around these parts. And that is something that cannot be fully appreciated online.
Good news on that front. Lapp is bringing his 19th annual Home for Christmas concert series back to the Alix Goolden Performance Hall for three in-person performances this weekend.
“After two years of streaming, these are our first Home for Christmas concerts in three years,” Lapp said. “It’s going to be action-packed. A very lively show.”
He has assembled 150 performers for the occasion, culled from several Lapp-led ensembles: the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, Folkestra!, the Joy of Life Choir, Shiny H’ornaments, and the Swing’n Shepherds.
Lapp and Co. are swinging for the fences after a long layoff. Several fiddle orchestra alumni, including Timebenders singer Allegra Bonifacio, former North American fiddle champion Ivonne Hernandez, acclaimed bassist Isaiah Smith, and former Riverdance cast member Ceilidh Briscoe, will appear under the Strings of Lights banner.
“They were all in the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra when they were teenagers,” Lapp said.
Another teenager, Lapp’s daughter, Soleil, will celebrate her 16th birthday by singing at the events this weekend, which mark her 10th appearance at the Home for Christmas festivities. She will sing a version of Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas, with a full band and strings for support, “that is going to be pretty special,” Lapp said.
Lapp also wanted some of the programming to focus on cultural exploration. The choirs will sing in the Michif language with Métis singer-songwriter and Gemini-nominated actress Andrea Menard, and the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra will perform several Métis fiddle tunes, he said.
Contemporary hits by Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn are also in the setlist.
The concerts are presented at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall by the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where Lapp serves as the artistic director of the Chwyl Family School of Contemporary Music. Lapp said membership in his choirs, which operate outside of the conservatory, “took a pretty big hit” when COVID-19 arrived, but the numbers have bounced back in recent months.
That’s definitely a positive after stretches of not-so-positive developments, he said. He’s having fun with the wave of new members who joined his choirs, many of whom did so after taking stock of their creative opportunities during the past two years.
“A lot of people figured out they wanted more music in their lives,” Lapp said. “As soon as the green light was given, we had a lot of new people signing up for music lessons.There’s an excitement there for us because quite a few of the 150 performers are doing their first-ever Home for Christmas concert. I could see during rehearsals they were looking at each other, thinking ‘What are we in for here?’ because they have no idea. The people who have done this before know that people in there for the first time are going to have their eyes widened.”
Like many in the audience, Lapp is approaching the concerts with a healthy dose of appreciation, which mirrors the meaning behind many events held at this time of year. Lapp is a community builder without peer, and his projects are defined by his passion for adventure, which always runs high around Christmas.
“It’s a bit of a pinch-me moment, these concerts. It’s almost surreal. [The pandemic] pummelled us so hard. It took so much energy to stay optimistic about this career. Not being able to sing in the same room as another person, for two years, it took its toll. And I think it scared people. So there is certainly a sense of celebration about being able to this again.”