Nancy Woods, left, dances with Sophie L’Homme during the Dec. 17 concert at Ucluelet Community Centre. (Erin Linn McMullan Photo)

December concerts welcome the holidays with a west coast twist

Tofino and Ucluelet December choir review.

ERIN LINN MCMULLAN

Special to the Westerly

The warm blue lights illuminate the Tofino and Ucluelet choirs, still in their casual clothes, as conductor Sophie L’Homme runs them through one last pre-show rehearsal and a medley of classics inspired by her grandmother’s Christmas mix-tape. Her treasured grandmother’s gold bracelet dances as L’Homme’s hands clap time and she sways from side to side in the unique choreography that is her special signature when conducting. Christmas lights strung across the stage at the Ucluelet Community Centre and a pair of poinsettias matching the lonely red bass waiting on its stand help keep the black winter west coast night at bay.

The December concerts, performed in both Tofino and Ucluelet on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, put a unique west coast twist on the season and showcase the reasons the choirs have quickly become the heartbeat of the community. The program unfolds like an end-of the-road anthem from L’Homme’s haunting duet with Filimoni Saininaivalu of gospel song, “Can’t Give Up Now”, to the adapted “A Nightingale Sang in Barclay Sound”, to the calypso beat infusing “Bring Me a Higher Love” that has the audience dancing in their seats.

Both the complex “Nightingale” and “Bridge O’er Troubled Waters” are performed by the alumni of the choir retreat held this fall at Cedar Cove Field Station or what L’Homme calls “camp for grownups”. L’Homme delights in discovering and featuring her chorists’ special talents from Saininaivalu’s “fantastic” vocal register to instrumental flourishes like Donald Cornwell’s solo sax and Therese Bouchard’s lively turn on the djembe.

“I love my choir family,” says L’Homme, who, describes how it has become “an organic part of this community with deep roots” and formed connections between people from all different generations and backgrounds. It has also provided L’Homme with a sense of belonging she has not experienced anywhere else, despite strong ties to her family in Montreal. She was also very moved to learn how choir had changed people’s lives during that first dinner at their retreat. “I feel so blessed to be close to community,” she adds, explaining that to connect that way is like winning. It’s a confirmation of her instinct to call this coast home, even as she reflects in concert on how “life here is pretty but not easy” as she discovered that first summer in 2008 when she drove across Canada in her Toyota Corolla.

Like her talented choir, L’Homme has evolved over the past two years from a novice to a professionally trained conductor, augmenting her foundation in jazz and arranging from the University of Montreal. Arranging all but two of the program’s numbers, the alchemy of her hundreds of hours at the computer turning pop tunes into choral music transforms the already-rich “In Dreams” from The Breaking of the Fellowship. Its spirit of resilience as the lyrics describe winter’s cold and the “bitter rain” highlighted in the song’s introduction by Dr. Pam Frazee echoes the soft drizzle outside the auditorium and the experience of the audience who sit warm and enthralled. It seems apropos as we are embraced by L’Homme’s fully realized dream: a choir to lift a community’s spirits.

Coming full circle, L’Homme is expanding that dream by composing, a new piece exploring our relationship with the ocean. She created it in collaboration with author Joanna Streetly and hopes to have the choir ready to perform for Pacific Rim Whale Fest.

Choir begins in the new year in Tofino on January 25 and Ucluelet on January 30.

Just Posted

BC Transit plan rolls through public process in Tofino and Ucluelet

“I’m thankful that the residents on the Coast are allowing this process to continue on.”

Ucluelet cancels Harbour Lights Sail Past

“Of course it’s disappointing. It’s one of my favourite community events.”

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Ucluelet Aquarium wraps up season with release day event

Residents help release charismatic critters on Dec. 7.

Tofino shops set to sparkle during weekend’s Jingle Into Christmas celebration

“It’s like a family reunion. It’s nice to see the locals’ faces.”

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

The Russell Troupe finds a comfort zone in small Island community

Family gathering with two parents and five kids a common scene around Chemainus

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Most Read