A Joyful Sound rises over the snow

Todd MacLean
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“And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low. Then it started to grow ...”

You remember that quintessential scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Whos rise up in song on that Christmas Day, despite having all the material objects of Christmas robbed from them?

Who could forget it?

It was this kind of feeling of triumph-over-adversity that was at play in the Hillcrest United Church this past Sunday night.

Yes, it was as though Old Man Winter was determined to snuff out the yuletide glow of A Joyful Sound choir this year, so much so that it almost seemed like the Old Man himself was the Grinch who continually stole the show away.

Four different dates meant scheduling and re-scheduling — as it was first planned for Dec. 15 (for a performance both in Souris and in Montague that day), then consecutive storm postponements moved it to Dec. 22, then Dec. 29, until eventually one show was scheduled (with fingers crossed) for this past weekend.

So when the appreciative audience was finally taking in the truly beautiful Christmas concert presented by A Joyful Sound in Montague this past Sunday evening, it was as though you could almost hear Old Man Winter being stone-cold shocked somewhere up in his grey cloud above, looking down and marvelling, “It came, just the same!”

And worth-the-wait it all was, indeed.

It was a monumental night as longtime director Owen Aylward was directing the choir for the very last time after 30 years of dedication to the ensemble.

“This choir has been a source of great satisfaction for me. It’s a group of good musicians. It’s a group of really good friends,” Aylward said in a speech, after receiving a long standing ovation for his commitment and achievements throughout the years with A Joyful Sound, which he also described as being “one of the greatest joys” of his life.

Accompanist Fran McBurnie was given an award as well for her 29 years of dedicated service, and choir members Ronelda Peters and Claire Gallant were presented with awards for their 30 years of membership.

With a program of 16 songs, A Joyful Sound sang soothingly and impressively, through a performance that lasted just over an hour.

Highlights were many and included songs like The Star of Bethlehem (a peacefully-flowing lullaby in a gorgeous arrangement), the festive and bopping Calypso Carol and Have You Seen the Baby (the 24-member choir’s tight phrasing between the sections and skillful pitch execution were clearly on display in this compelling a cappella tune).

The second half brought with it stellar performances of uniquely-arranged songs such as Deck the Halls with Haydn (a classically-infused refreshing Christmas treat), the joyous Jingle Bell Dash (complete with a playful bridge inspired by the melody from Chopsticks) and the crystal-like pianissimo tranquility of Dona Nobis Pacem.

Certainly, in its long-awaited state, the evening showed why it’s always a good idea to keep on persevering when you know you’ve got a good thing to give.

And, for a choir that has and kept on giving strongly and steadily through three decades, what a fitting way it actually was not only for them to bid adieu to Owen Aylward, but to begin anew in this new year.

Montague Regional High School choral director Christie Beck will be taking over the baton for A Joyful Sound — and the choir is excited about being placed in such experienced hands — so be on the lookout for their performances later this year.

That is, as long as Old Man Winter has learned his lesson this time around. You never know: Maybe his heart grew three sizes that day!

Next week: Colour Code’s EP Release for “Houle” at Hunter’s tonight.

Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Todd's weekend picks:

Colour Code EP Release for Houle – Hunter's Ale House, today at 11 p.m., with opening guests Yak Bak.

First Solid Rock Café of 2014 – First Baptist Church, today, 7-11 p.m., an all-ages show featuring Wildcat, English Words, Moxie and Roundabout.

Pie-Off and Musical Extravaganza – The Dunk, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., featuring Catherine MacLellan and many, many scrumptious pies to start the new year off in a sweet, sweet way.

Sir John A's Birthday Party – P.E.I. Brewing Company, tomorrow. Enjoy a full day of celebrations starting at 1 p.m. with free live entertainment, birthday cake, pizza and more and continuing into the evening with music beginning at 9 p.m., featuring Haunted Hearts, Racoon Bandit, The North Lakes and Chris Dalziel.

Organizations: Hillcrest United Church, The Star, Regional High School Ale House First Baptist Church Birthday Party P.E.I. Brewing Company

Geographic location: Montague, Souris, Bethlehem

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