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Symphony Nova Scotia

Making merry

By Trevor J. Adams

Victorian Christmas. Photo: Parks Canada

Victorian Christmas. Photo: Parks Canada

November and December are lively months in Halifax, with dozens of special events marking the holiday season. Read on for our favourites—with an exciting mix traditional classics and new events, there’s plenty here for the whole family.

PARTY PEOPLE
The Holiday Parade of Lights on November 15 marks the unofficial start of the holiday season in Halifax, as some 100,000 spectators line downtown streets to see dozens of floats and musical acts. Back downtown on November 22, Grand Parade square in front of Halifax City Hall hosts the city’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting, a family-friendly celebration with live entertainment and a visit from Santa. Also on November 22, Halifax Citadel National Historic Site hosts its annual Victorian Christmas, sharing Christmas traditions dating back to colonial days. The party moves across the harbour the next weekend, as the park at Sullivan’s Pond hosts the Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting on November 29, where the highlights include the Santa Claus Express Train and fireworks.

CRAFTY CHRISTMAS
Back for its 37th year, Christmas at the Forum is one of Canada’s largest annual indoor markets of its type, with some 450 vendors offering art, gifts, antiques and food. The Halifax Forum on Windsor Street hosts on November 7 and 8. Another beloved market, the Dalplex Christmas Craft Market returns on November 28 to 30, as Dalplex on South Street showcases dozens of Atlantic Canadian vendors.

JOYFUL MUSIC

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

Symphony Nova Scotia offers holiday concerts galore, with A Merry Cable Christmas (featuring contemporary holiday classics) on November 27 and 28, The Nutcracker (presented with Mermaid Theatre and Halifax Dance) on December 5 to 14, and Handel’s Messiah on December 19 and 20. A King’s Christmas is back on December 14. Canadian actress and author Shelley Thompson joins the King’s College Chapel Choir at All Saint’s Cathedral on Martello Street for seasonal songs and stories. The holidays get a Celtic twist on December 21, as the Barra MacNeils perform an East Coast Christmas at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

HILARIOUS HOLIDAYS
December sees the return of a pair of popular holiday-themed comedy events. On December 8 and 9, Cape Breton comic Bette MacDonald returns to the Dalhousie Arts Centre with her annual Tis the Season show. The annual Ha Ha Halidays event comes to the World Trade and Convention Centre on December 12 and 13, with Derek Edwards hosting an evening of stand-up comedy.

PLAY ON

Halifax Christmas Tree. Photo: Tammy Fancy

Halifax Christmas Tree. Photo: Tammy Fancy

Neptune Theatre’s long-awaited holiday production begins on November 25. A Christmas Story, based on the much loved-tale of young Ralphie’s efforts to secure a BB gun, continues through January 4. The holiday pantomime at Theatre Arts Guild is another seasonal mainstay. It’s always a lively, rollicking show with lots of audience participation. This year, it runs from November 27 to December 13. And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Scrooge. Jeremy Webb brings his remarkable one-man performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street on December 23, 24 and 26.

AULD LANG SYNE
Finally, head to Grand Parade square in front of Halifax City Hall on December 31 to say farewell to 2014 and welcome 2015. The New Year’s Eve celebration kicks off at 10:30pm, featuring live entertainment and Atlantic Canada’s largest fireworks celebration at midnight.

The right notes

By Trevor J. Adams

Natalie MacMaster joins Symphony Nova Scotia for a Maritime Fusion concert.

Natalie MacMaster joins Symphony Nova Scotia for a Maritime Fusion concert.

After giving audiences a taste of the new season during Symphony Week last month, Symphony Nova Scotia takes things into top gear with several big concerts throughout the month. Acclaimed Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster joins the orchestra at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on October 3 for the year’s first Maritime Fusion concert. The Grammy-winner always puts on a high-energy show of Maritime roots music—jigs and reels abound. There’s an encore performance on October 4.

Up next is someone special for classical purists: legendary Canadian violinist Martin Beaver (whose resumé includes 11 years as first violinist with the Tokyo String Quartet). Maestro Bernhard Gueller conducts as Beaver joins the Symphony at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on October 16. They’ll perform the Haydn Variations by Brahms, Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 3 (Scottish) and Max Bruch’s Violin Concert in G minor. They repeat the performance on October 19 at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, where the Halifax Transit ferry docks.

On October 24, the Symphony returns to the Dalhousie Arts Centre for one of its most popular concerts of the year: the Halifax Pop Explosion collaboration. This year, it shares the stage with Canadian indie darlings Whitehorse. With strong arrangements, brilliant songwriting and intense vocal chemistry, it’s no surprise that the husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland were nominated for the prestigious Polaris Prize in 2013. Their distinctive alt-country sound is sure to hit a new level when they team up with the Symphony. A repeat performance is scheduled for October 25.

And these concerts are just a taste of what the Halifax Pop Explosion offers. Running from October 21 to 25, the festival celebrates the best in alt and indie music, with accomplished veterans sharing stages with rising stars. Some 200 bands will perform in 20 venues, in front of 30,000+ fans.

Venues include public spaces like Government House and Saint Matthew’s United Church and traditional nightspots like Casino Nova Scotia, The Carleton, The Marquee Ballroom on Gottingen Street, the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street, the Company House on Gottingen Street, Olympic Community Centre on Hunter Street and Reflections Cabaret on Sackville Street.

Lights

Lights

Although performance schedules weren’t set at press time, organizers are already tantalizing fans with an all-star list of performers. Highlights include Calgary’s Astral Swans, Wu-Tang legend Ghostface Killah, singer/songwriter Mo Kenney, Toronto rockers Tokyo Police Club, pop multi-instrumentalist Lights, and many more.

For schedules and ticket information, surf to halifaxpopexplosion.com

Hot Dates in Halifax: 5 for Music Lovers

Blue Rodeo returns to Halifax on January 18th at the Halifax Metro Centre. Photo: Warner Music

January 18: P.E.I. singer/songwriter Lennie Gallant joins Symphony Nova Scotia at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

January 18: With solid musical chops, distinctive song-writing and deep roots, it’s little wonder that Blue Rodeo remains one of Canada’s hottest musical acts. See them at the Halifax Metro Centre on Duke Street.

February 2: One of Canada’s biggest rock bands for two decades, the Tragically Hip never stay away from Halifax for long.

February 24: Tafelmusik’s Jeanne Lamon joins Symphony Nova Scotia for a celebration of Baroque music at Saint Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road.

February 28: Celtic Woman, an ensemble of female performers, perform Celtic tunes at the Halifax Metro Centre on Duke Street.

Editors Choice
February 9: Southern gospel staples since 1939, the Blind Boys of Alabama offer an uplifting celebration of American gospel, roots and blues. Three blind singers, joined by four other musicians, offer timeless hits like “Way Down in the Hole,” “Soldier” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” The concert will be held at Dalhousie’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

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 Culture Club: Halifax’s Cultural Institutions Return

Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the Neptune Theatre two-hour solo production of Hamlet.

With Shakespeare, Vivaldi and the hottest young musical innovators, October sees a trio of cultural institutions return to Halifax.

With old favourites and new acts you have yet to hear about, Halifax has plenty to offer music and theatre fans this month. Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street, Atlantic Canada’s largest (and one of its oldest) professional theatres, kicked of its season last month with the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A smash hit in London, the Victorian musical—by turns comic and macabre—is the tale of a wronged man, returning to London for an imaginative revenge on the judge who stole his wife and family. It runs until October 7.

Up next in Neptune’s Studio Series is a remarkable production of Hamlet. Canadian Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the two-hour solo show, bringing Shakespeare’s tragedy to life in an energetic and technically flawless performance. Hamlet runs from October 9 to 21.
Back on Neptune’s mainstage, the month concludes with the latest work from acclaimed Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor. In Bingo, a group of adults return to their Cape Breton roots for their 30th high-school reunion. It’s a funny, thought-provoking story of friendship and growing up—and the nice guy finally getting the girl. See it from October 16 to November 4.

Music fans are also in for a great month in Halifax. After teasing audiences with small free shows during Symphony Week last month, Symphony Nova Scotia launches its new season with Haydn’s Creation at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue. For the first time in more than a decade, the Symphony and the Symphony Nova Scotia Chorus are tackling Haydn’s soaring, triumphant, ambitious composition. See it on October 6, with an encore on October 7.
The Symphony offers more for classical purists on October 14 with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Guest violinist David Stewart, former concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic, leads the orchestra through the baroque masterpiece. This show is at Saint Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road.

Don’t think Symphony Nova Scotia is stuck in the past, though. This month it lends its considerable talents to the Halifax Pop Explosion, an annual festival of alt/indie music, showcasing emerging talents from around the world. On October 19, as part of the festival, West Coast folk-rocker Dan Mangan joins the Symphony for a unique
musical collaboration.

And with 150 bands playing at 18 different venues around the city, the Halifax Pop Explosion has much more to offer music lovers. Other highlights include Gianna Lauren and Al Tuck at The Carleton on October 16, Wintersleep at Olympic Hall on Hunter Street on October 18, and Mardeen at the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street October 20.

April Hot Dates in Halifax

La Cage aux Folles

La Cage aux Folles

Continuing through May 6: He was an artist of considerable talent, yet H.M. Rosenberg’s work has been all but forgotten in the last 150 years. In Europe, he absorbed the influence of Duveneck, Whistler, Sargent, Bocklin, Bastien-Lepage and Gauguin. In 1896, he moved to Nova Scotia and produced much of the work comprising the Rosenberg exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street.

April 4: Miami rap force Pitbull makes a very rare visit to Halifax, sharing the stage with Flo Rida (with Tyler Medeiros), Mohombi and Nayer.

April 4–29: Viewpoint Gallery: Photographer Cathy McKelvey explores the world of child’s play in the exhibition Let’s Play.

Editor’s Choice: April 10 to May 27: Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street wraps up its season with La Cage aux Folles. The hilarious and touching musical tells the story of Georges, the owner of a glitzy and “exotic” nightclub in the French Riviera and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction—the glamorous chanteuse Zaza.

April 13: Symphony Nova Scotia: The orchestra presents Maritime Fusion, sharing the stage with singer/songwriter Sarah Slean.

April 14: Jerry Seinfeld: Arguably the greatest stand-up comic of his generation, Seinfeld makes an extremely rare visit to Halifax.

April 14: In a busy month on the Halifax entertainment scene, this is one show that anyone with ‘90s-music nostalgia won’t want to miss. Influential San Francisco alt-rockers Third Eye Blind play an intimate show in the Schooner Showroom at Casino Nova Scotia.

April 15: Bryan Adams: The legendary Canadian rocker is on his first cross-Canada tour in 20 years, bringing his old band back together.

April 22: Saint Cecilia Concert Series: The Cecilia String Quartet collaborates with Jeunesses Musicales to perform Sensibility & Brio.

April 25 to 28: The Halifax Comedy Fest returns, highlighting up-and-coming local comics alongside top national acts. Highlights include the Opening Gala (hosted by Samantha Bee) at Casino Nova Scotia, Comedy All-Stars (hosted by Gerry Dee) at the Casino shows at Yuk Yuk’s with Halifax’s own Brian Aylwar, the Seahorse Tavern and the Lower Deck; plus the Gala Finale, hosted by Mark Critch and scheduled to air on CBC TV.

April 27: Stars on Ice: An exhibition by some of the world’s top figure skaters, including 2010 Olympic gold medallists and World Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and four-time World Champion Kurt Browning.

April 27, 28: Symphony Nova Scotia’s annual Beer and Beethoven concert is a rite of spring in Halifax. Offering a casual coda to the season, the orchestra moves to Cunard Centre for a relaxed waterfront concert with dancing, comedy and yes, beer.

April 29: The Dartmouth Community Concert Association showcases married pianists Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax, one of the best piano duos of their generation. It’s sure to be a magical show at the Woodlawn United Church as they join forces on one piano.

A monster season

Two of the city’s biggest cultural institutions launch exciting new seasons.

Neptune Theatre is the biggest professional theatre in Atlantic Canada, so the launch of a new season is always a big deal. This year, the new season begins on September 13 with Frankenstein. Continuing through October 9, it’s a bold and ambitious retelling of the Mary Shelley classic.

For a theatre company that spent last season highlighting Shakespeare, it may seem a bit of a left turn, but artistic director George Pothitos is constantly working to challenge audiences. “At Neptune, we strive to inspire our audiences with great stories,” he says. “The plays we’ve chosen this year reflect this.”

Other highlights this season include the classic The Jungle Book (November 22 to January 8), the world premiere of Norm Foster’s Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out and the fabulously glitzy La Cage aux Folles (April 10 to May 27).

“They are a blend of intelligent, engaging, funny, challenging and whimsical theatrical experiences,” Pothitos says. “The struggles and triumphs of these characters from around the world—India, France, Switzerland, Newfoundland, Calgary and New York—illuminate our own lives, our struggles and our triumphs.”

In addition to the main-stage shows, Neptune boasts an intimate Studio Stage where it offers even more for fans. The season there begins with the poignant tale of aging, Another Home Invasion (October 11 to 23). “Our quest for excellence and innovation is present in everything we do,” Pothitos says. “The plays and musicals we program, the directors we choose, and the designers, actors and creative staff we thoughtfully assemble. They all come together to create a unique theatrical event.”

Meanwhile, music fans are anxiously awaiting the start of Symphony Nova Scotia’s new season. They’ll have to be patient until September 20, when Symphony Week features a variety of free concerts at venues around the city, previewing the new season.

The first full concert of the season is on September 30 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue in Halifax. And it’s also one of the orchestra’s most exciting shows of the season. Juno-award winning singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman takes the stage for his first orchestral show. Workman is one of the most innovative musicians in rock today, so this is sure to be an unforgettable show. There’s an encore performance on October 1.

Under Maestro Bernhard Gueller, Symphony Nova Scotia has become known for its ability to embrace new styles and artists. “Symphony Nova Scotia is the most versatile orchestra in Canada,” says legendary conductor Howard Cable. Still active at age 91, Cable joins the Symphony to conduct The Big Band Era on October 4.

After the Hawksley Workman show, the Symphony races into a busy season. Other highlights include the Christmas classics The Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah in December, The Music of Pink Floyd in February and the French Festival from April 18 to 22.