Listening Party Podcast Episode 13

Dec 04, 2020 1:00pm

Venue Online

Cost Free

Podcast #13

Friday, December 4, 2020 | 1 pm | On Demand

Get into the festive spirit with host Rebecca Hass, Anne Grimm, Benjamin Butterfield, and Tracy Dahl as they chat about their most memorable stories from holiday concerts and share their favourite carols with you in the accompanying Spotify Playlist!

Anne Grimm has spent many a holiday season performing in magnificent cathedrals across the world, with her favourite being Milan, effectively making Rebecca and all of us jealous! Anne explains that the way people take a break from daily life to come together and enjoy art is what makes holiday concerts so special for her; the atmosphere is full of love and joy.



Benjamin ButterfieldFor the past thirty-five years Benjamin Butterfield has been singing Messiah, having even performed in Jerusalem… that’s a lot of Messiah’s! One of his most memorable performances, however, was not a happy one. One fateful night after a bowl of oxtail soup and before a performance, Ben got food poisoning. Still having to perform, he shares the story of running on and off stage to rest between arias and how at the end of it all, he was told it was one of the best performances he had ever done.


Canadian soprano Tracy Dahl tells the heartwarming story of how her favourite Christmas Concerts are the ones that she has done with her family over the years. A longstanding tradition of the Dahl family is having a Christmas Eve carol singalong where they would scrounge up Christmas music, cook dinner together, and learn the music before performing. Clearly musical talent runs in the family!



What you hear on the podcast only offers part of the conversation that I had with my guests. Ben and Anne and Tracy were full of stories! I’ve done my best to add them to the playlist for you. The playlist liner notes reflect the fuller conversation and offers insights into music that has mattered to these artists and may prompt you to remember music in your own life, or perhaps, find new favourites.

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Benjamin Butterfield, tenor and Anne Grimm, soprano

Symphony No. 4 in G: 4. Sehr behaglich Mahler with Maestro Bernard Haitink, Roberta Alexander, soprano.
Imagine, a young girl sitting in the audience on Christmas Day listening to this music conducted by Bernard Haitink. How could she not grow up to be a musician? Anne Grimm was that young girl in the concert hall, who was able to sit in the hall each December 25th. Ben remarked that these concerts were also recorded for television broadcast and when he watched them online he often looks for Anne as a child in the audience shots, because she was there! The soprano soloist in this movement is described as “giving voice to… heavenly serenity”* . Listen for the sleigh bells in this movement as well. *

Wesendonck Lieder: Trauma By Richard Wagner with Jonas Kaufman, tenor

Der blinde Knabe, D. 833 By F. Schubert

I Think it’s Going to Rain Today by Randy Newman
Randy Newman is a favorite composer of Benjamin’s. You can hear him singing some of Mr. Newmans works in an earlier lunchbox concert from pacific Opera.

West London By Charles Ives, with Marni Nixon and John McCabe

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Op. 71 : No. 13 Waltz of the Flowers and Miniature Overture
Anne and Benjamin’s daughters were both avid ballet students and a highlight for them every Christmas was to dance in the Nutcracker. A special part of the treat for the girls is that a family friend, Peter Dala, would be the guest conductor every year, and there would be a special hello and wave for the girls from the pit. Ben and Anne reflected on the importance of the Nutcracker in their lives, because of their daughters involvement. Ben confessed to never seeing it before until, after years of missing their performance, due to a health incident he found himself in Victoria on the right night. This piece is on the playlist at the request of their daughters and you can pretty much see the beaming smiles of their two proud parents.

Christmas Wrapping, with The Waitresses

L’enfance du Christ, Op. 25 – Partie 2: La quite en Egypt Le repos de la Sainte Famille- Les Pælerins étant Venus by H. Berlioz with the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of Montreal with Charles Dutoit with John Mark Ainsley, tenor

Wonderful Christmastime By Paul McCartney

Messe de Minuit, H.9.: Christe and Kyrie by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Eric Huchet, Patrick Henckens, Russell Smythe, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski, Chorus Of Les Musiciens Du Louvre
Anne spoke at length about all the Baroque music that she would sing at Christmas as a soloist in the Netherlands as she rode the train from concert to concert about Europe. I have not doubt, this work was among them.

Hark the Harald Angels Sing, with the Choir of King’s College Cambridge

That’s Christmas to Me, performed by Pentatonix

Skating, My Little Drum, Linus and Lucy performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

Weihnactsoratorium, BWV 248, Pt. 1: Jauchzet, frohlocket and from Part II: Frohe Hirten, eilt, ach eilet by J.S. Bach with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Ton Koopman
Anne has performed the Christmas Oratorio many, many times. When Ben talked about the experience of discovering Messiah anew through performing the uncut version, she concurred that the same is true of the Christmas Oratorio. Often one performs only three of the 6 sections, but in it’s entirety, the work reveals it’s true brilliance. In the first recording you will hear the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra which Anne sang with many times. The second piece, is the tenor aria featuring Benjamin Butterfield himself with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem that he and Anne have both enjoyed return performances with.

The Lamb by John Tavener with Daniel Taylor, countertenor and The Trinity Choir

Why do the Nations So Furiously Rage? from Handel’s Messiah, performed by Al Jarreau

O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion from Handel’s Messiah, performed by Stevie Wonder and Take 6

Messiah, HWV 56, Pt. 1: 1.Sinfonia from Handel’s Messiah performed by the American Bach Soloists, Jeffery Thomas

Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28 by Benjamin Britten with the Kings college Choir, Stephen Cleobury
Recession, Deo Gracias, Spring Carol, In Freezing Winter Night, Interlude, This little Baby, As Dew in Aprille, Balulalow, That Yongë child, There is No Rose, Wolcom Yule! and Procession

The Merriest-ThunderBall Mix with June Christy
Everybody’s Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag-ThunderBall Mix with Kay Starr

All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) MJ Cole Remix with nat King Cole Trio and the Starlighters

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Away Team Remix with Lou Rawls

Tracy Dahl

Tracy talked about many pieces that her family liked to sing, and her tradition of singing for her parents at their home and later at their seniors residence. These stories included her two sons, one a singer studying at the University of Victoria and the other a violinist in his teenage years. Imagine singing with your son, and trading off the top line when he is a boy soprano. These stories brought us This Little Babe, by Benjamin Britten and the Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem. The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Boston Pops is in the play list as a nod to a Christmas concert she turned down. She couldn’t imagine the point of her standing downstage to sing the little bits of the 12 days of Christmas while the orchestra had all the fun! And in this recording, they do seem to have a lot of fun. This year, Tracy will be pre-recording O Holy Night for her church to share on Christmas Eve at their virtual service. Almost every singer I know gets a chance to sing this at least once over the season at their local church. I’ve chosen to share the iconic Pavarotti in this timeless classic. Tracy shared that she hasn’t sung many performances of Messiah in her career, and these days what she likes to think about, is singing those choruses. If you have ever attended a Messiah sing-along then you will know how challenging and how rewarding it is to be immersed in singing it. In my student days I sang with the Elora Singers, an elite chamber choir, and I will never forget one particular Messiah I sang with them. The rigorous preparation to work all those vocal runs into the voice, and then the joy and release that was possible because of that work in the performance. It was truly spirit filling. I particularly remember Canadian baritone, Dan Lichti, as a soloist he took the roof off the place with the Trumpet will Sound. In celebration of the choruses that Tracy would love to sing I’ve included three selections:
For Unto Us a Child is Born, His Yoke is Easy, His Burthen Light, and as is the tradition, don’t forget to stand for Hallelujah chorus!

I hope this playlist leads you to some new music, and a few hours of delightful listening. Christmas is a time for music and I’m so grateful to this months playlist curators for their stories and selections. Merry Christmas!

Opera ETC
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