Review by Jennifer Musgrave
Imperial brought another winning performance in collaboration with Symphony NB on December 18, 21st, and 22nd with songs classic and contemporary for the holidays. Symphony performed their Christmas concert with conductor Kevin Mallon who brought some much needed warmth to the chilly night air. The Christmas spirit was felt and heard all around as Symphony began with the classic “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson. It’s nice to hear a familiar tune during the Holidays and symphony delivered but with extra pomp as many instruments emulated the sounds of a sleigh ride to recreate the experience. The brass notes stuttered playfully like the whinny of the horse ending the audience’s imaginary ride on the winter night.
The spirit of playfulness was in the air with Mallon on stage creating a relatable atmosphere that was inviting and familial. Mallon grew up and pursued his music education in Belfast, Northern Ireland and brought a personal touch to the night with his anecdotes or thoughts on each upcoming piece. With some of the contemporary pieces Mallon took care to make sure the audience would listen and pay attention to the ways in which the music truly imitated the sounds of winter. Even if you are not one for the Holidays, hearing these pieces really captured the feel of the winter months and the gloomy weather that stirs one into reflection. The two pieces “Snow Drift” by John Burge and “Finlandia” by J. Sibelius felt in tune with the truths of winter. The harsh blowing winds, the sounds of ice droplets melting, and the flurries overlaying one another could be heard throughout the crescendos of these pieces.
The evening featured several songs with soprano soloist Sally Dibblee; a renowned singer throughout North American opera houses and known for her concert performances with Toronto Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, and Symphony New Brunswick just to name a few. As a former faculty member with Mount Allison University she is in demand for voice instruction and lectures. The proof lay in the performance, as Dibblee’s voice rang effortlessly throughout the Imperial theatre acoustics. The resonance of her voice was the crown jewel of the night and blended with Symphony’s winter inspired repertoire in pieces such as Handel’s “I know my redeemer liveth from Messiah” and Strauss Jr.’s “Czardas from Der Fledermaus.”
It wouldn’t be a Christmas concert without excerpts from the Nutcracker suite now would it? This performance however decided to bring a unique flare to the tradition with surprise collaborations with young student dancers from local schools. This particular performance featured dancers from Saint John schools while the others featured Fredericton and Moncton schools. Dressed in flower dresses four young girls brought a simple yet graceful routine to the majestic “Waltz of the Flower” piece. Others brought a moody and expressive flare to the “Russian Dance” as well as a well synchronized routine with the “Chinese Dance” that was both contemporary and honouring of the original spirit of the piece. Overall the night contained enough variety to satisfy all your winter cravings whether gloomy or festive.