The 39th annual CBC Christmas Sing-In took place Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul and — via video simulcast — the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Bourgie Concert Hall.
Every year since 1980, Montrealers have come out in great numbers to sing their favourite Christmas carols with the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in stirring arrangements for brass, percussion and organ. This year's lineup also included harpist Valérie Milot. The organist and director of music was Jonathan Oldengarm; the conductor was Jean-Sébastien Vallée.
For many, this concert marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Montreal. The photos below reveal why. (All photos by Tam Lan Truong unless indicated otherwise.)
Many arrived early to get prime seats inside the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul and neighbouring Bourgie Hall. Some brought liquid encouragement.
Others simply bundled up and smiled.
Debbie Hynes, communications manager for CBC in Quebec, greeted the public as they arrived for the concert.
While CBC's Andrea Stanford smiled and scanned tickets before the doors opened.
Inside the church, cameraman Claude Dubé made sure he'd get the best shots for the live webcast.
Musicians arriving at the artists' entrance were greeted by Robert Koffend (left) and Michel Poitras, members of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul.
When the doors opened, the public was met by a variety of CBC personalities, including Nancy Wood, host of CBC Montreal News at 11.
Everyone received a program that included the words to all the audience carols. (Those watching the live webcast at home could view this online version.)
This year's CBC Christmas Sing-In was hosted by CBC Montreal's Sean Henry and CBC Music's Julie Nesrallah. They were so happy to meet each other, they took a selfie.
Backstage, some choir members were concerned with their hair.
Others needed to get their makeup just right.
Some engaged in mildly disturbing pre-concert rituals.
While others were happy to enjoy an oasis of calm before the storm of the concert.
Head chorister Stephanie Manias held percussionists Mark Morton (left) and Ben Reimer in her thrall.
Meanwhile, audio technician Sébastien Heppell (left) and cameraman Dubé (centre) confirmed some final details with the concert producer.
With everyone finally seated inside, Nesrallah and Henry welcomed the public.
Glenn Chestnutt, the minister of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, told everyone about the upcoming Christmas services at his church.
Sophie McCann, executive director of West Island Community Shares, informed the crowd about her organization, which would receive the proceeds of the day's collection.
A special moment: Wayne Riddell, conductor of the first CBC Christmas Sing-In in 1980 and nine after that, accepted some applause.
Organist Jonathan Oldengarm looked on (via his rearview mirror) while conductor Jean-Sébastien Vallée was fitted with a microphone.
Vallée led a crash course in choral singing, to get everyone ready for the audience carols.
He seemed particularly concerned that people at the back of the church would drag the tempo.
When they eventually met his approval, he took a group selfie.
Which looked like this. (Photo: Jean-Sébastien Vallée)
The altos and sopranos made their way to the back of the church to prepare for the candlelight procession.
While they were doing that, harpist Valérie Milot and organist Oldengarm played a prelude.
In the narthex, the choristers lit their candles.
The lights in the church were dimmed as the choir sang "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by candlelight.
"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel."
The members of the choir looked (and sounded) impressive wearing their brand new robes.
This year's concert marked conductor Vallée's fourth CBC Christmas Sing-In.
As the concert continued, the audience sat in rapt silence.
Until it was time to stand up and sing.
The brass arrangements added to the excitement of the audience carols.
"The First Nowell," in an epic arrangement by Dan Forrest, was a highlight.
One thousand Montrealers joined in the refrain: "Born is the King of Israel!"
Backstage, CBC's Chris Maskell (left) assisted switcher Julie Lapierre in choosing the best camera angles for the live webcast.
The tenor section included Marcel d'Entremont (left), winner of the 2018 Wirth Vocal Prize, and Adam Wills Begley (right), assistant conductor of the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul.
This year, percussionist Mark Morton, a CBC Sing-In regular, travelled from Halifax to take part in the performance.
An ensemble of 45 voices, the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul released a new album in November. Learn more about Requiem here.
While everyone gave their vocal chords a rest, Rev. Chestnutt told a Christmas story titled The Christmas miracle of Jean-Pierre Toomey, to which you can listen below.
From the 2018 CBC Christmas Sing-In.
Halfway through the concert, a collection was taken to support West Island Community Shares, an organization that raises funds for 40 groups operating in Montreal's West Island.
All the musicians joined for Eriks Esenvalds' stirring Trinity Te Deum.
To end the concert, the brass players got a workout playing Julian Wachner's arrangement of "Joy to the World." Below: trumpeter Amy Horvey.
And the audience filled the church with their voices. "And heav'n and nature sing!"
At the end of the concert, the members of the choir left the church while receiving a standing ovation.
Outdoors, a wintry Montreal awaited the audience as they left the concert.