Facing the garlanded stage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra warming up, looked down on by the Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus, I can’t help but feel the buzz of holiday cheer. I have not had the privilege to attend the symphony since I was a child, and am enjoying the energy of Roy Thompson Hall. Walking into the venue, the University of Toronto Trombone Band was playing Holiday favourites in the lobby, lending a majesty to the songs that perhaps only trombones can. I’m all-in for Christmas: baking cookies with my mother, ‘hunting down’ and cutting a tree, the warm fuzzies from napping in front of a fireplace Christmas morning. Traditions at this time of year are familiar and lovely, and it is these routines that build up what we call ‘the Christmas spirit’. I must say, I will definitely be adding attending the TSO’s Christmas show to my list of traditions.
The show began with silver bells sassily tinkling through the introduction of “Deck the Halls” to set the mood. Suddenly, the brass section joined, bringing the sound to full holiday splendor. And really, there’s nothing that sounds like Christmas more than swelling brass. What really caught me, though, was the ESA Holiday Chorus. The choir joined the brass to belt out the glorious first line of the song, and I was inundated immediately with full body chills. Here I am, not even two minutes into the show, and tears are already prickling in my eyes. It’s gonna be a good one, I thought as I snuggled down into my chair.
The entire evening was a joy, and the incorporation of Cirque de la Symphonie with the TSO was pure magic. The variety of circus acts complemented the orchestra with excellence. The artists picked up the minutia of musical tempo and melodic variations, drawing attention to the symphony, and the musicians bolstered the acrobats’ performances to perfection. The conductor of the symphony so clearly was showing his joy at working with the circus professionals, I once spotted him once gazing at the performers downstage while conducting the symphony over his shoulder. One may not usually think to pair circus with classical music, but the performance at Roy Thompson Hall demonstrates exactly how wonderful this relationship can be. The juggler used the percussive hits in Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” to bounce his rings off the floor, using multidimensional space in an interesting fashion. The aerial silk artist, dressed in a golden unitard, hung suspended to “Ave Maria”, gliding through the air like an angel. However, the act that stole the show was the performance by ‘Jarek and Darek’. The pair performed a strongman balancing act in the most statuesque and breathtaking manner. Painted a gilded gold, the performers demonstrated a choreographed and stylized act accompanied by an arrangement of Little Drummer Boy dubbed “Little Bolero Boy”, in the style of the famous piece. The audience reacted with the traditional and awed ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s.
Finally, the concert closed with a Christmas Sing-along to “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Joy to the World”, and “Silent Night”. Hearing the gentle rising of voices from seats all over the hall, following direction of the ESA Chorus, could not have been more magical. The song ended with the Chorus humming the tune to “Silent Night”, acapella. The moment had the same feeling as a candlelit Christmas Eve service in a grand cathedral. The music, magic, and majesty of the evening have rippled through me for days. I was drawn in and fully encompassed by the artistry of the evening, and would promote the TSO’s Cirque de la Symphonie program to anyone wishing to feel the warmth and love of the holiday season.