Whether you attend December 15 or 16, Keith Todd promises that Music for a Winter’s Eve will be “a magical, festive night of music.”
Todd is the musical director for the pre-Christmas presentation by the senior and junior concert bands from F.H. Collins and Porter Creek secondary schools, as well as the All-City Jazz Band.
“It’s kind of a band extravaganza. It’s a real mix of pieces. It’s all upbeat, exciting. We’ve got lots of different styles represented,” he boasts.
This is Todd’s second Christmas outing with the All-City bands. As a music teacher at Porter Creek Secondary School, he shares musical directorship of the combined ensembles with Tristan Fox, his counterpart at F. H. Collins .
He and Fox were both teaching in British Columbia — Todd in Nelson, Fox in Prince Rupert — when they were hired through a joint process with the Department of Education and the non-profit All-City Band Society.
“They were able to co-ordinate the schedule so that we could work together. It’s a unique situation for all of Canada, actually,” Todd says.
Todd admits the joint hire was a bit of gamble, but says it has worked out well.
“I think they put a lot of care and time into it. Fortunately, we get along. We actually have a great time together,” he says.
Rehearsals for the upcoming performance, which Todd co-runs with Fox, began back in September.
“We’ve really fine-tuned a lot of these pieces, so when we perform them, they’re in really polished condition,” he says .
Todd selected the concert pieces during a three-day music-reading clinic at the Long & McQuade music outlet in Vancouver.
Choosing music for a group of musicians that includes students from grades 8 to 12, plus about 40 per cent adult performers in the senior concert band was no mean feat, he acknowledges.
“I think we’re looking for a combination of pieces that please the audience, and kind of have the participants on the edge of their seat a little,” he says.
“You don’t want to perform anything that’s too easy. We have quite an eclectic variety of tastes. So one of our biggest challenges is choosing music that is challenging, and that meets all the needs and desires of everybody involved.”
In the end, Todd chose a program that includes two musical medleys.
“We’re doing a James Bond medley one night, and another night we’re doing a Chicago medley – the band Chicago,” he says.
“That one’s near and dear to my heart, because I ‘m actually playing in a Chicago tribute band down south during the summer. I saw them live last spring and they were great. They’re still going hard.”
Apart from some traditional Christmas fare and a Hanukkah tribute by the junior band, the concerts will include a Cajun hoedown tune with “a really nice, fun kind of Cajun beat to it”, as well as a new take on the venerable Huron Carol, written by Vancouver composer Robert Buckley.
“It’s called ‘Fantasy on the Huron Carol’ and it’s a fantastic piece. Lots of really nice moods and colours in it,” Todd says.
“It’s a beautiful tune. I would say it’s probably one of our nicest pieces.”
Todd considers himself fortunate to work with a group that includes both students and adults who range from their early 20s to about 75 years in age.
“There’s a lot of mentorship goes on. That’s the prime philosophy of our program. It’s great, especially for our younger players, to be part of a musical community like that,” he says.
“It raises the bar for the younger players. And for the older members, the mentoring is important. I think they feel maybe a little bit more part of the organization when they’re able to do that.”
Todd says the performances will get Whitehorse audiences in a festive mood.
“We’re really proud of our groups this year. We’ve put some challenging music in front of them, and they’re not just playing it, they’re actually playing right to the music.”
Music for a Winter’s Eve will take place Monday, December 15 and Tuesday, December 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre. Monday’s concert will feature the F. H. Collins Grade 8 band, while the Porter Creek Grade 8 band will be featured on Tuesday. Tickets are $7, available at the Yukon Arts Centre box office and Arts Underground.