Festive Brass, the ensemble that performs at Butchart Gardens at Christmastime, is joining the Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet for a concert at the Port Theatre on Dec. 4. (Photo courtesy Jesse Hlady)

Festive Brass, the ensemble that performs at Butchart Gardens at Christmastime, is joining the Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet for a concert at the Port Theatre on Dec. 4. (Photo courtesy Jesse Hlady)

Brass ensembles ring in the season at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre

Butchart Gardens’ Festive Brass to join Vancouver Island Symphony players

The Vancouver Island Symphony is presenting its first Christmas show in two years.

On Dec. 4, the VIS Back Row Brass Quintet and Festive Brass, the group that plays at Butchart Gardens at Christmastime, are joining together to present the Christmas program Keep Calm and Carol On at the Port Theatre. The title of the show is meant to evoke the old Second World War slogan as well as the mantra of B.C. public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Trumpeter Stevan Paranosic, a member of both groups, said he looks forward to returning to the Port, as “nothing beats the acoustics of a large concert hall and a big live audience.”

“Hearing a live audience react to what you’re playing is really something,” he said. “I mean we can practise all we want in our little practice rooms, but getting together and making music for other people is what it’s all about.”

Last Christmas the Back Row Brass Quintet was scheduled to perform a series of outdoor live concerts in Nanaimo area, but those plans were halted due to rising COVID-19 numbers.

Now that the group is able to proceed with its performance, Paranosic said they’ll be expanding on the program they intended to offer last year thanks to the addition of Festive Brass. Instead of just five musicians, there will be 13 on stage.

The symphony’s Noteworthy Kids Choir was to participate as well, but Paranosic said they will not be part of the show due to COVID-19 concerns.

Paranosic said the musicians will be performing “a whole slew of Christmas carols,” including the premieres of two new arrangements: A version of Wassail Wassail All Over the Town for 10-piece brass ensemble by American composer James Stephenson that features “a really entertaining tuba solo” and a classical Christmas “mash-up” by Festive Brass bass trombonist Robert Fraser.

“He’s taken some well-loved Christmas carols and he’s mashed them up with some very popular classical composers,” Paranosic said. “So we’d like to keep the audience guessing and not give any spoilers, but one of them is called Deck the Hall of the Mountain King.”

WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Keep Calm and Carol On at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Dec. 4 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Adult ticket range from $27 to $54, $20 for students, available from the Port Theatre.

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