If you love sacred Christmas music, then look no further for your 2017 holiday soundtrack.
The 38th annual CBC Christmas Sing-In took place Dec. 10 with a capacity crowd at Montreal's Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul and, joining via video simulcast, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Bourgie Concert Hall. The full concert is now streaming in the player to your left.
Get into the spirit of the season with this heartwarming program of Christmas favourites performed by:
- The Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul
- Benjamin Raymond, Frédéric Gagnon and Mark Dharmaratnam, trumpeters
- Martin Ringuette, Evrim Dogan and Matthieu Bourget, trombonists
- Mark Morton and Ben Reimer, percussionists
- Stephanie Manias, soprano
- Jonathan Oldengarm, organist and director of music
- Jean-Sébastien Vallée, conductor
While you're listening, consult this online concert program for information on the repertoire and to follow along. And scroll through the photo gallery below to discover why this annual concert marks the beginning of the Christmas season for so many people in Montreal.
As though on cue, Montreal received its first snowfall of the season on Dec. 10, but that didn't deter people from arriving at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul hours before showtime. They were greeted at the outdoor pop-up tent by CBC's Julie Melanson (centre) and Andrea Stanford (right).
The lineup wrapped around the neighbouring Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which is where we snapped this shot of some merry Sing-In attendees.
Church volunteers Michel Poitras (left) and Robert Koffend welcomed staff and musicians at the artists' entrance, and appeared happy to do so.
Once doors opened at 2 p.m., the public received concert programs from CBC Montreal personalities such as Nancy Wood, host of CBC Montreal News at 11.
Within minutes, the church was nearly full.
Meanwhile backstage, choristers hydrated and shared a laugh while robing up.
Microphones were placed throughout the church to record the concert for broadcast.
Katherine Duncan, the voice of CBC Radio 2's Choral Concert, co-hosted the concert with Sean Henry of CBC Montreal News.
Rev. Glenn Chestnutt welcomed the public to his church. He used the opportunity to tell them about the new Christmas album from the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, called LUX.
Hubert Lacroix's second term as president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada comes to an end on Dec. 31. A longtime supporter of the CBC Sing-In, he explained how Christmas music gives us a welcome moment of serenity in a world plagued with difficulties.
Organist Oldengarm (seated) and conductor Vallée were — like the proverbial oxen — standing by.
Leanne Bayer, executive director of West Island Community Shares (WICS), told the audience about her organization, which raises funds for 41 different non-profit groups on the West Island of Montreal. More than $7,700 was collected for WICS during the concert's free-will offering.
Before the start of the concert, conductor Vallée put the audience through some choir drills.
At first, he was underwhelmed. "I can't hear you!"
But, after some further vocal warm-ups, they met his approval and he took the obligatory group selfie.
Which looked like this.
At the same time, in neighbouring Bourgie Hall, conductor Francis Choinière also took a group selfie. His choir, Le Choeur des Mélomanes, led the singing there.
The sopranos and altos used the side aisle to make their way to the back of the church.
In the narthex, they lit candles.
The lights in the church were dimmed, a hush fell over the audience, and the choristers slowly advanced down the centre aisle. Soprano soloist Stephanie Manias led the way.
"Once in Royal David's City."
The tenors and basses joined them in the choir stalls.
Everyone sang along for the fourth and fifth verses of the processional carol.
Cameraman Claude Dubé got the best shots for the webcast and the video mix transmitted live to nearby Bourgie Hall.
Backstage, Julie Lapierre produced the six-camera video mix with help from CBC's Chris Maskell.
Next door, the Sunday School superintendant's office was turned into a makeshift control room for recording engineer Pierre Lévesque (right), producer Robert Rowat (centre) and audio technician Sébastien Heppell.
The 45-voice Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul performed a number of a cappella pieces with remarkable blend and precision.
In addition to conducting the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Vallée is director of choral studies at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
Those who came to sing had lots of opportunities to do so. The words to all the audience carols were printed in the programs.
Many of the sing-along carols included thrilling descants from the sopranos.
"Good King Wenceslas."
Partway through the concert, Chestnutt told a Christmas story entitled The Other Wise Man.
Organ scholar Matthew Johnson provided an extra pair of hands and pulled stops and turned pages for Oldengarm.
Spotted in the audience: Wayne Riddell, conductor of the very first CBC Christmas Sing-In back in 1980 (and at least 10 others since then).
The brass and percussion ensemble accompanied the choir for two virtuosic works: Julian Wachner's arrangement of "The Snow Lay on the Ground" and Randall Thompson's "The Last Words of David."
The concluding carol, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," began with an extended organ solo.
Percussionists Mark Morton and Ben Reimer cranked up the excitement.
The audience responded with a huge round of applause.
Oldengarm, Vallée, the brass and percussion ensemble and, of course, the choir all got a long ovation for their performance.
The public filed out of the church to find a wintery Montreal evening awaiting them.
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