What: Daniel Lapp’s Home for Christmas
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave.
When: Friday, Dec. 21 (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday, Dec. 22 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.)
Tickets: $14.85 to $29.10 at Ticketfly.com, by phone at 250-386-5311 or in person at the Victoria Conservatory of Music box office, 900 Johnson St.
When he steps on stage at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall today, for the first full-cast dress rehearsal for his Home For Christmas concerts, Daniel Lapp expects he’ll have to be more creative than usual. That’s saying something.
With more than 200 participants in the concerts set for Friday and Saturday, the festival director and artistic leader might have to put his fiddlers — more than 70 — in the upper balcony of the Pandora Avenue hall, alongside the audience. “I don’t know how else we’re going to do it,” Lapp said with a laugh. “I haven’t counted, but the choir is 100 people and Folkestra is 50. We’ll have 50 kids and then we have musical guests. It’s going to be wild. It seems to grow every year,”
Indeed it does, both in performers and audience appeal. Lapp, one of Victoria’s favourite musical sons and community leaders, has been at the helm of Home for Christmas since he founded the event 15 years ago. In the years since, it has enjoyed a string of sellouts. Lapp tweaked some details for the 15th edition, and is heading into Home For Christmas weekend with a new creative spark.
In years past, the series was held on the weekend nearest Dec. 15, to avoid the schedule crunch later in the month. But Lapp made an executive decision this year, switching the three Home For Christmas concerts to a later date so he could fully bring his vision to life.
“I’ve had an extra week to prepare,” Lapp said. “It feels like in the last few years, we had to let go of some of my fun ideas because we just didn’t have time.”
Though he only gave himself an extra seven days, Lapp has made full use of it. He wrote a new song for the production on Tuesday, after hearing a Led Zeppelin tune on CBC Radio while driving. We Wish You a Merry Heartbreaker is the result. “Before noon, I had charted it up and sent it off to the string and the horns in the band. When I heard that bass riff [by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin], I thought that would be so fun.”
He also added saxophonist Ryan Oliver to the roster of players, after meeting him for the first time — during a live performance, no less — just weeks ago. “I said: ‘Hey, what are you doing Dec. 21 and 22? Come and play,’ ” Lapp said with a mischievous laugh.
The showcase of artists from Greater Victoria has no end of options for music lovers. For brass fans, there’s The Shiny H’ornaments, while The Swingin’ Shepherds will appease jazz lovers. Strings of Lights (featuring harpist Julia Cunningham, who toured with soul legend Solomon Burke and has her instrument signed by the Rolling Stones) adds a classical flair, while Lapp’s students in the Joy of Life Choir, Folkestra and B.C. Fiddle Orchestra — now in its 25th year — will bring Celtic-inspired sounds.
There is always a strong Canadian undercurrent to the show. Cara Luft of The Small Glories (formerly of award-winners The Wailin’ Jennys) has worked up several carols on clawhammer banjo, including what Lapp calls an “amazing” version of the Bryan Adams favourite Christmas Time. Lapp’s 12-year-old daughter, Sóley, will also perform, tackling Doris Day’s version of Winter Wonderland with her older sister, Mary.
Lapp is dedicating the Home for Christmas concerts to his father, Clarence, a former logger who died in Prince George at the age of 88 on Nov. 14, leaving six children, 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Lapp plans to play his father’s favourite harmonica at the concerts, along with the older man’s most cherished instrument — a banjo — for the first time. Lapp’s mother, Charlotte, was a widely regarded music teacher in the Prince George area, and served as a major influence on her son. Lapp said his dad never chose to take the spotlight, but he could play, nonetheless.
“He always had a harmonica in a cupboard above the fridge, which is also where he kept his chewing tobacco. Most of the time, he would go in the cabinet and I’d see him pull down a new pack of snuff, but once in a while, instead of snuff, he’d pull out the harmonica and play a tune. My mom was the musician with a capital-M, but my dad was a musician, too — just with a small-M.”
In his dad’s honour, Lapp plans to play For Our Fathers, a song he wrote 20 years ago, after reading the work of celebrated Cape Breton author Alistair MacLeod. “It’s a tribute to a generation of characters we’ve lost. We don’t celebrate a ‘character’ anymore, because everyone feels like they need to conform. My dad’s generation, it was encouraged to be yourself. To be authentic.”