Singer Elise Boulanger and pianist Sarah Wood perform at the White Room on Dec. 23. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Christmas Eve’s eve concert in Nanaimo to evoke stories and memories

Singer Elise Boulanger and pianist Sarah Wood perform at the White Room

When pianist Sarah Wood plays Silent Night, she’s reminded of the time she was stuck in Gatwick Airport outside London on Christmas Day in 1986. She said the airport was full of young, homesick Europeans when suddenly they all began singing Silent Night, each in their own language.

“It was just the most amazing real-life experience of people just looking really tenderly at each other from across the hall and singing,” Wood said. “So many memories. When you sing a song like that it just takes you back and brings you … right here, right now with the people you’re with.”

It’s that sense of boundless fellowship that Wood and singer Elise Boulanger hope to evoke when the local duo present The Night B4 The Night B4: An Evening of Christmas Music and Stories at the White Room on Dec. 23. This is an event Boulanger has held twice in the past, but this is the first time she’s being accompanied by Wood, a collaborator for the past 10 years.

Boulanger said when it comes to the holidays, Christmas is unmatched in the music department.

“Halloween doesn’t really have music, Valentine’s Day doesn’t, New Year’s Eve has Auld Lang Syne but Christmas is the main musical holiday in our Anglo-Saxon Canadian culture,” she said.

The concert will draw from that deep pool of material, featuring traditional and classical Christmas songs and medleys as well as what Boulanger describes as a couple more “jumpy, bumpity” tunes. Wood said it’s a “dream come true” to add Boulanger’s voice to her arrangements.

“The thing about Elise is she’s got this incredible range,” she said. “She can switch gears from being the most saucy little Santa Baby girl you ever heard or saw to singing Ave Maria with the most piercing, pure, true, pitch-perfect, spine-tingling – I mean I got to see her sing a cappella last week and I was riveted.”

Boulanger said she’s been researching some old Christmas carols and will be telling the stories behind those songs during the show. Overall, she said she’s aiming to provide “a cozy, warm feeling of the holidays and a space and a place where people can come together and meet other people and have a better sense of community and just feel the holiday spirit.”

Wood said it’s a unifying spirit able to cross many divides.

“I love Christmas, I’m a Christian, but it’s the one time of year where I feel totally, really connected with everybody and I’m allowed to hug everybody,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Elise Boulanger and Sarah Wood present The Night B4 The Night B4: An Evening of Christmas Music and Stories at the White Room, 4 Church St., on Monday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 available online.

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