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A Halifax Holiday

Jeremy Webb's A Christmas Carol

Jeremy Webb returns as Scrooge in a Christmas Carol.

With its rich history and diverse population, Halifax has many beloved traditions and events to mark the Christmas season. The unofficial kickoff to Halifax’s holidays comes on November 17 with the Holiday Parade of Lights. This popular annual parade will draw some 100,000 spectators, so stake out a good vantage point early. The parade begins on Barrington Street, wending its way through the downtown, west on Spring Garden Road. There will be music, entertainment, floats galore and a visit from Santa Claus.

The action returns downtown on November 24, as Grand Parade square in front of City Hall hosts the city’s Christmas Tree Lighting. Once again, there will be family-friendly entertainment and a visit from St. Nick. If you miss that, you get a do-over on December 1. Drop by Sullivan’s Pond for the Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting . The agenda includes a concert by Razzmatazz, fireworks and free rides on the Santa Claus Express Train.

As you’d expect, there are holiday concerts aplenty as well. On November 28, Cape Breton songstress Rita MacNeil performs her annual Christmas show at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue. Joined by pianist Frank Mills, she presents traditional holiday tunes.

And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the return of two wildly popular annual productions by Symphony Nova Scotia. Running from December 7 to 13 is an elaborate production of The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s heartwarming story of a
little girl whisked into a fairytale land features performers from Halifax Dance and elaborate puppetry by Mermaid Theatre. Up next at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue is the Symphony’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Guest soloists and the 80-voice Symphony Chorus give full impact to the Baroque masterpiece.

If you’re not in the holiday spirit by December 23, return to the Dalhousie Arts Centre for the annual Barra MacNeils Christmas concert. Another annual holiday favourite, this one pays homage to the province’s Celtic roots, as the Cape Breton group shares old-time music.

November and December are jammed with holiday plays and stage shows, too. The holiday show at Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street this year is Elf: The Musical. Based on the popular Will Ferrell comedy, it’s the fairytale story of Buddy. Raised as one of Santa’s elves, he discovers he’s human and heads to New York to track down his father.

On December 10, celebrations take a hilarious twist with Tis the Season. Cape Breton comedians Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison team up for a sidesplitting look at the holidays. If it never quite feels like Christmas until you see Scrooge, so drop by the Cunard Centre on December 13 for Jeremy Webb’s one-man performance of A Christmas Carol. After performing the show for several Christmases, Webb is an expert at bringing Scrooge’s uplifting tale to life.

Finally, say good-bye to 2012 and welcome 2013 on December 31 with the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations in Grand Parade square on Barrington Street. Beginning at 9:30 p.m., local TV personalities host a rollicking all-ages celebration, with live music and a spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

The Wooden Sky Return to Ottawa for Intimate Concert


The Wooden Sky play First Baptist Church in Ottawa this Wednesday, Oct. 24

The Wooden Sky have had a busy year. The Toronto-based rock quintet released their third full-length album Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Son in February. The release has taken them across North America, through the summer festival circuit, and into Europe. Instead of taking a break, they’re back on the road again – filling their calendar with a score of dates across Canada and the States. And once again Ottawa is on their schedule.

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, The Wooden Sky play First Baptist Church with openers Wildlife. WHERE Ottawa editor Travis Persaud speaks with lead singer and songwriter Gavin Gardiner about their tour-filled year, his favourite Ottawa spots, and what he likes to pack when on the road.

The band just came back from Europe. How did the tour go?
It was really awesome. We’ve been over a few times before, and it always felt like a paid holiday. But this time it definitely felt like there’s some momentum there. We just signed a record deal [in Europe], which is great. We have a team on the ground and they’re excited about the record.

It’s a bit strange, because the record came out here in February, but it came out in Europe in October. Bu it’s kind of neat to do the whole interview process again. I’ve sat with the record a bit, and it was nice to visit that again.

What have you learned after sitting with the record for the past eight months?
That’s a good question! [laughs] It’s anything you make it. There’s a period of questioning it. And definitely with this record, people are looking to be critical, in an analytical way. So it’s interesting to read that and see how that influences how I view the record. What I’ve really learned is to be more open about the process and the subject matter. I used to feel so guarded about that stuff. I’ve had more fun talking to people when I’m open about what the songs are about and what it means to me.

What is the touring experience like in Europe?
Touring the U.K. is pretty comparable to touring in Canada and America. But touring in mainland Europe is pretty different. There’s a different structure for musicians, and the audience is a part of that. People who run the shows are really committed at making the whole experience really positive for everyone. When you get there people are ready for you; the hospitality is fantastic; the audiences just come because something is happening. Not to completely compartmentalize everything, but the whole singer-songwriter thing in North America feels pretty common and it doesn’t always feel like you’re doing something new. But in Europe, especially in Germany, it’s not as prevalent. So it feels pretty new – there aren’t many expectations that we felt.

The band has been on the road a lot this year. Why did you decide to do another North America tour?
Well, what else are we going to do? [laughs] This tour is very different than the last one we’ve done. I love playing rock shows, but it doesn’t allow us to shine in every aspect that the band can shine in. The whole idea behind this tour is to take what we do in our annual Christmas show in Toronto, where we play in a church, and bring that experience on the road.  From a financial standpoint it’s a bit harder to do because the rooms are more expensive, but the experience for us, and hopefully the audience, is worth it. It allows us to have a lot more flexibility. There’s only so much dynamic range you can have at a place like Ritual. I get off the energy of playing at Ritual, but this is a different kind of party and fun.

This will be the band’s fourth show in Ottawa this year [including their concert at The Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield]. What keeps you coming back?
I really like Ottawa. I’ve spent a lot of time there. My girlfriend grew up in the area. And the audience has been really fantastic for us.

Are there any places you love to visit or eat at when in town?
I was doing some pre-production in Ottawa and went to Raw Sugar a lot. I’ve been to the Elgin Street Diner a lot of times… There’s a place in the market we like to for sandwiches as well, La Bottega. I want to go to the Whalesbone as well. I follow Rolf from The Acorn on Instagram and he’s constantly posting pictures of food from spots in Ottawa.

What are your travel essentials when on the road?
I bring way to much stuff on the road! I’m actually taking out stuff from my suitcase right now. But I can’t go without my laptop and hard drive. I’m constantly working on demos and mixing on my headphones, which isn’t the most desirable setting, but it makes me feel a little closer to home.

What’s next for the band after this tour?
We took so much time off before we started touring, so we were getting antsy and booked ourselves up. Now, everyone’s excited to get home and work on a new record. We’re talking about making a new record in January or February, and have it done in March.

 The Wooden Sky play First Baptist Church on Wednesday, Oct. 24. For ticket information visit Spectrasonic.





Hot Entertainment: Bob Dylan at the Saddledome

Dylan performs in Calgary tomorrow. Photo: Courtesy Sony Music Entertainment Canada.

Music legend and icon Bob Dylan performs at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, October 10th with special guest Mark Knopfler. The Freewheelin’ Dylan performs songs from his 2012 album, Tempest, as well as some of his classics. The show begins at 7:30 pm, for ticket information contact Ticketmaster, 1-855-985-5000.


Hot Entertainment: Gotye

Gotye performs Aug 29 at the Stampede Corral. Photo: Courtesy Ticketmaster.

2012 might just be remembered for NASA sending the Curiosity rover to Mars or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations or for Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. But it will definitely be remembered as the year Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” wormed its way into our collective consciousness, causing us all to emotionally belt out the breakup anthem’s complete lyrics at its mere mention. (more…)

August Hot Dates in Halifax

Halifax Seaport Beerfest

August 10 & 11: If you’re a beer aficionado, you ought to clear your schedule this weekend. The Halifax Seaport BeerFest on Marginal Road gives you the chance to sample 200 beers from around the world, including craft and nanobrews not available locally. There are three tastings over the weekend, also featuring Nova Scotian cuisine and live music.

August 13 & 14: Top junior-hockey players meet in the Canada-Russia Challenge, a two-game series at the Halifax Metro Centre honouring the historic 1972 Summit Series.

August 18: It’s a blast of the ‘80s at Weir Rockin’ 12, an annual concert at Weir Field in Lower Sackville. This year, Platinum Blonde, Prism and Kim Mitchell headline.

August 19: Keith Urban, country music’s Australian star returns to Halifax, playing the Halifax Metro Centre on his Get Closer tour.

August 25: Bring your own chair or blanket for this free afternoon of concerts, as musicians converge on the park at The Hydrostone on Young Street for Music in the Park.

August 29–September 2: Last year, Halifax hosted the Beach Volleyball Junior World Championships. How successful was the event? For the first time in its history, it’s returning to the same city in
back-to-back years (its only North American event this season). Head to The Sands at Salter to see 64 teams from around the world (featuring the world’s best under-21 players) battle for the championship.

Lady Antebellum at the Scotiabank Saddledome

And the Grammy Goes To…


Lady Antebellum in Calgary March 16, 2012. Image courtesy of Live Nation

Hot on the heels of a second consecutive Grammy win for best country album, Lady Antebellum’s Own The Night 2012 World Tour makes a Calgary stop tonight. (more…)

Holiday Q&A: Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director Ivars Taurins on Handel’s Messiah

Ivars Taurins in fine fettle as Handel (photo by Gary Beechey)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir‘s joyous holiday concert, the Sing-Along Messiah. Both vocalists and non-singers are welcome to enjoy the show on December 18 at Massey Hall. (The ensemble also offers non-participatory concerts December 14 to 17 at Koerner Hall.) We asked Maestro Handel—er… Choir Director Ivars Taurins—what makes the Sing-Along performance so special, and what audience members can do to tune up their vocal chords should they choose to partake in a few Hallelujahs.

How would you describe baroque music
to the uninitiated?

The word “baroque” was originally used as a derogatory description of art or music which was overly extravagant, irregular, or even bizarre. It comes from the Portuguese word barroco, describing a misshapen pearl. In the twentieth century it has become the respectable term for music from about 1600, when opera was born in Italy, until about 1750, the year of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. Some of the most often-performed baroque composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Baroque music can be at once exuberant and extrovert, or intimate and soulful. To the layperson it is generally more “accessible” than the often turgid, dense style of romantic music, or the esoteric qualities of modern music.

How do you prepare to step into the role of George Frideric Handel?
For the last 25 years, my preparation backstage has been to go over my lines and get back into the role. The inspiration for my script usually hits me less than 48 hours in advance, so read “stressas the underlying backdrop. I have to put on the various elements of the costume enough in advance so that I can get used to feeling suitably rotund, bulky and rather ancient. I start walking around with more of a gait and take off my glasses so that my eyes adjust enough to be able to make out faces by the time of the concert. Once I get into my “fat suit,” there are technicalities that limit my movements and possibilities, so I have to carefully time make-up, dressing, meals, etc., right down to the last minute before I step onto the stage.


Hot Date: Barry Manilow Plays BlackCreek

AUGUST 24 It may not be the Copacabana, but York University’s open-air concert stage is sure to heat up when Barry Manilow croons his hits at the BlackCreek Music Festival. Rexall Centre, $64 to $156; call 1-888-860-7888 or visit here for tickets.

Hot Date: U2 Plays for T.O.

JULY 11 Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.—collectively known, of course, as U2—return to wow an audience of over 50,000 with classics like “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Beautiful Day.” Rogers Centre, 7 p.m., $32 to $252; call 1-855-985-5000 or navigate here to buy.

Hot Date: TSO’s Jazzy Affair

Trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling performs with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

MAY 17 AND 18 Return to the roaring 1920s with A Night at the Cotton Club, where tunes by the likes of Cab Calloway and the Duke Ellington Big Band get a dash of classical elegance courtesy of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jeff Tyzik. Featured performers include trumpeter Byron Stripling (pictured), drummer Bill Breithaupt, sultry vocalist Carmen Bradford and tap dancer Ted Levy. Roy Thomson Hall, Tuesday 8 p.m., Wednesday 2 and 8 p.m., $29 to $109; call 416-593-4828 or navigate here to purchase.

Hot Date: Buddy Guy’s Got the Blues

APRIL 8 The seductive sound of the Windy City blows into Toronto courtesy of Buddy Guy. The legendary singer and guitarist has been strumming his Fender Strat for more than 50 years; as an inspiration to such artists as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, he’s considered a major historical link between the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. With an arsenal of expressive vocals, towering riffs and searing solos, Guy’s performances offer an electrifying blend of the blues’ southern roots with a gritty, urban swagger. Massey Hall, 8 p.m., $49.50 to $69.50; call 416-872-4255 or click here to buy.

Hot Dates: Classical Connections

• March 11: The Dartmouth Community Concert Series hosts a unique evening of music at Woodlawn Church as percussionist Anne-Julie Caron (marimba) and pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone join forces

• March 20: Symphony Nova Scotia moves to the cozy confines of Saint Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road as Jeanne Lamon visits for a celebration of English baroque music.

• March 24: The Symphony returns to its regular digs at the Dalhousie Arts Centre for this performance of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony. Pianist Avan Yu also performs Schumann’s Piano Concerto to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.