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KWS takes their Christmas spectacle online

KWS violinist Allene Chomyn and principal bass Ian Whitman at the filming of this year’s Yuletide Spectacular, with a scene from a past performance. The new show will be available online this weekend. [Submitted]

The KW Symphony’s Yuletide Spectacular would normally immerse audiences in a varied musical experience inside the acoustically rich confines of the Centre In The Square. That not being an option this year, the organization will be reaching out well beyond the venue and even the region in taking the show online.

The goal is to share the joy of the season, not the physical space given attempts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, when the Yuletide Spectacular takes to the virtual stage December 18.

It features orchestral holiday favourites, Canadian Broadway star Chilina Kennedy performing seasonal hits, appearances by actors Mike Nadajewski and Glynis Ranney who are favourites from Yuletides-past, Carousel Dance Company performing selections from the The Nutcracker, and the traditional carol singalong.

Former KWS assistant conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser returns to spearhead the effort.

“What a year 2020 has been,” said Bartholomew-Poyser in a statement. “But one of the happy things to come out of all this is the new formats we’ve come up with to reach you, our audience, and the ability to share music with even more friends and family who live outside the region; with a traditional concert this just wouldn’t be possible. So, join us as we help you get into the holiday spirit and celebrate the season with music, special guests, and surprise appearances all around Waterloo Region.” 

For Ian Whittman, the symphony’s principal bass player, the Yuletide performances are a special time of the year, with the crew typically going through four performances lasting about two hours in length.

“We have hundreds of guests join us: choirs and dancers, singers, narrators; we’ve had bell choirs in the past, all sorts of things, people, community members who join us on stage and [in the] audience,” he said of the experience, usually held in-person. “We have close to 6,000 people in the audience over the weekend, and we have hundreds of people on stage, so just the sheer number of people joining us and kind of celebrating the end of the year and the holiday season.”

Originally from Edmonton, Whittman has been with KWS since 2011. His interest in music began in high school when he first picked up a guitar to play some rock ‘n’ roll tunes. He decided he would switch to a more secure musician plan and play bass, aiming to join an orchestra. 

Whitman’s favourite pieces to perform annually come from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

“Tchaikovsky is a great composer. It’s great ballet music, fun to play. So I’d say I was kind of look forward to playing the music from The Nutcracker every year.”

The pieces being perfect for dancing would typically see a stage packed with dancers, but this time around, the dancers’ video footage is compiled with the orchestra through editing. The symphony’s favourite piece as a whole is Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. 

A more recent staple of the tradition has been narrated stories ranging from Chris Van Allensburg’s The Polar Express to Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater has been cut from this year’s virtual adaptation due to logistic issues. 

Whittman said he hopes people will tune in to the event to help support the symphony, noting the organization will be busy again after the holidays.

“We are currently streaming concerts every couple of weeks, and we will be continuing in the new year as well.”

More information on the event and future events can be found online. 

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