A spring showing of a popular winter musical tradition for many Yukoners will be streamed into homes around the territory and beyond March 30 and 31.
The Music for a Winter’s Eve concert will feature a plethora of band music, including performances by the All-City groups — All-City Jazz Band, its Junior Concert Band, and Senior Wind Ensemble — as well as the Jack Hulland Elementary School Hawks Drumline, Vanier Catholic Secondary School rock bands and soloist Brian Gaas.
Normally held in December, the concert would typically see more than 100 performers in various All-City bands take to the stage of the Yukon Arts Centre in what Toby Moisey, a musical director with All-City, described as a “one-night extravaganza.”
Moisey, who teaches at Porter Creek Secondary School, and F.H. Collins Secondary School teacher Alex James have been working together as musical directors for All-City, which features a Grade 8 band, a junior concert band made up of Grade 9 and 10 students, the senior wind ensemble made up of Grade 11 and 12 students along with adult musicians and the jazz ensemble made up of both junior and senior band members.
As Moisey said in a March 24 interview, the 2020/2021 band season has been very different and it wasn’t until October that All-City could even start rehearsing for the year, with new COVID restrictions put in place.
It meant major changes in how the bands practise and performance options, ultimately leading to the streamed showcase of music in March rather than the usual extravaganza evening at the Yukon Arts Centre in December.
Rehearsals were moved to the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria from the school’s band room, with members spaced one caribou (two metres) apart. Rehearsal times were also reduced with longer breaks during rehearsals to ensure proper air exchange.
Despite the changes, Moisey said the group was fortunate to meet and rehearse again, and he and James faced the challenges “head on.”
Reconfiguring the space in a cafeteria with musicians farther way from one another has changed the way he listens to pieces for the better and that’s something he hopes to continue when rehearsals can happen in the band room once again.
Given the time restrictions on the rehearsals, there was more focus on perfecting familiar repertoires many band members had played in the pre-COVID era.
With the realities of the pandemic, work also got underway to produce a recorded show that could be streamed by viewers.
Marie Gallagher, who worked on the production, said that while some live shows are back for a limited audience at the Yukon Arts Centre now, it just wouldn’t be possible for Music for a Winter’s Eve given the limitations on the size of the groups that can be together. Not to mention that such a live show would breach their own COVID safety rules that All-City follows.
Given that, work to record and showcase each of the bands separately started in November with a goal to make it available to viewers in December around the time the live performance would normally take to the stage of the Yukon Arts Centre.
An increase in COVID cases and exposure notices at that time put those plans on hold.
“We knew we had to be so careful with such a mixed aged group coming from all over town, so we decided to postpone recordings and rehearsals until things settled down again,” Gallagher explained. “We had actually already started recordings with our soloist Brian Gaas at that point. By the end of January we were good to go again and over a couple of weekends, recorded our senior, junior and jazz bands.”
Work was underway elsewhere to capture Jack Hulland’s drumline and Vanier’s rock bands.
“So we were able to keep our community music-making spirit of the Winter’s Eve concerts alive by including their recordings as well,” Gallagher said of Vanier and Jack Hulland schools. “We had enough material to create two different concerts (with all the same bands), one streaming on March 30 and one on March 31.”
Both Moisey and Gallagher said they’re excited for viewers to take in the work of the bands, enjoy a good show and see that music is still being made and performed in different ways.
Among the pieces Moisey’s excited to showcase, he pointed to The Witch and the Saint, a tone poem by Steven Reineke that tells the story of twins separated at birth and their lives that follow.
“It’s a beautiful, fun work,” Moisey said. “It’s very dramatic.”
While the bands are anxious to get back to live performances when it’s safe to do so, they’re not ruling out the possibility of streaming those shows as well.
As Moisey pointed out, recording the performances for streaming was an opportunity to learn new skills that can be used going forward.
Gallagher said she noticed an overall energy boost as the recordings were happening.
“It had something of the feeling of a performance which was lovely to see,” she said.
Tickets for both shows are available at the Yukon Arts Centre website.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org