|Kelowna Secondary School music teacher and choir director Sheila French, foreground right, and Okanagan Symphony Orchestra musical director Rosemary Thompson, foreground, left, and the KSS Chamber Choir will all be part of the symphony's upcoming Christmas concert.|
Standing on stage before hundreds of people in the audience, the high school students will offer a program of classic Christmas favourites while backed by the sounds of a full orchestra.
The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, in presenting its Christmas Reflections concert, will be joined by the young voices that make up choirs from Kelowna, West Kelowna, Vernon, Kalamalka and Penticton, all under the direction of conductor Rosemary Thomson and their individual music teachers.
This inaugural performance of the Okanagan Symphony Youth Chorus will perform in all three Okanagan Valley concerts, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, from Friday to Sunday, with all performances at 7 p.m.
The OSO and the choirs, as well as special guest Alan Corbishley, narrator and baritone from Kamloops, will offer music to complement traditional carols and arias that promise to infuse one and all with the Christmas spirit.
"It's a truly wonderful idea which has not been done here," said OSO music director Rosemary Thomson, who has spent the past several months flitting across the Valley to work with each individual school choir.
"The Vancouver Symphony has done this for some years and it seemed like a very nice fit for us."
Working with the Kelowna, Rutland, Mount Boucherie, Seaton and Kalamalka secondary school choirs, Thomson has been collaborating with music teachers, Lana O'Brien, Brian McMahon, Peter Deroche, Sheila French and Kimberly Kleineberg.
"It has been quite a bit of work, with the students having to take MP3 files home to work on the pieces," Kleineberg said.
"Dynamically, having a full orchestra behind you is a thrilling experience, and one that most of these kids have not experienced."
Her choir, which she initiated numerous years ago when she took up a teaching position at the school, have had the opportunity when the group travelled to Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa.
"I told them that it would be a hair-standing-up-on-your-arms moment," Kleineberg recalled.
"It didn't sink in until that moment when the music began and this beautiful sound started behind them. It was extraordinary, so when Rosemary pitched this Christmas concert idea, it was an easy sell to my kids," she added.
Thomson noted that the OSO "has a lot of focus on youth in the community" and feels that young people should be "celebrated for their talents."
"Their energy is infectious," she said. "I've chosen some very challenging pieces for the choirs, and the kids are amazing, they are very much up to it," she said.
"This will have a lasting impact on these kids. Some haven't even heard a symphony orchestra, so to be standing in front of that sound, will be quite an experience.
"If we can continue to gets kids involved, to appreciate this, then it might be a break through - an alternative idea for a date night!"
KSS choir teacher Shelia French noted that her choir will be augmented by several KSS alumni who have volunteered their voices to the high school group.
"It's a strong choir, it's been challenging and it's been great," she added. "They know their pieces, they can pull this off and it's going to be a lot of fun for all of them,' she added.
"This will be an amazing experience to be able to sing these beautiful songs with the full strings behind them," French said.
The challenge of distance between schools leaves the amalgamation of the 120 voices into one cohesive choir pinned down to one rehearsal, one dress rehearsal and the final three concert evenings.
"Doing anything cross-schools is great, and doing this big a project is amazing," French said.
During the evening, the school choir will present the Donkey Carol, the March of the Three Kings and A Childs' Christmas in Wales.
Other seasonal delights include Eddie's Service, Winter Soaring, The Gift of the Magi, Sleigh Ride, We Three Kings, Amazing Peace, Away in a Manger, The Road to Bethlehem and Twas the Night Before Christmas.
As is tradition during this year-end concert for the Okanagan Symphony, there will be an audience participation finale.
"The whole concert is full of uplifting moments, serene and reflective moments, and all with wonderful colours," Thomson added.
What: Christmas Reflections with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the Okanagan Symphony Youth Chorus and special guests
When & Where: Friday, Dec. 21, Cleland Theatre, Penticton; Saturday, Dec. 22, Kelowna Community Theatre, Sunday, Dec. 23, Vernon Centre for Performing Arts. All performances 7 p.m.
Tickets: Kelowna at Kelowna Actors Studio box office, 1379 Ellis St., 250-862-2687; Penticton at Wine Country Info Centre, 250-276-2170; Vernon at TicketSeller, 250-549-7469; online okanagansymphony.com.