Peterborough Singers to honour Canadian composer Len Ballantine at Yuletide Cheer

What happens when you take 100 well-trained voices, add brass band, a world-renowned organist, soloists, a packed house, and plenty of Christmas cheer? You get Yuletide Cheer – the Peterborough Singers’ annual Christmas concert, and one of the city’s best-beloved holiday traditions.

“Our signature Christmas concert is an exciting, tender, roof-raising, sentimental mix of carols and seasonal favorites, a concert to welcome the holiday season,” says Syd Birrell, artistic director for the Peterborough Singers.

This year the Singers are excited to announce that the concert will honour the life and music of Canadian composer and Salvation Army Major Len Ballantine. In addition to featuring a number of Ballantine’s greatest Christmas compositions that showcase his dizzying stylistic versatility, the concert will include the world premiere of the third installment of a trilogy of Christmas songs composed by Ballantine for the Singers. (For more on this trilogy, see our November newsletter.)

“It is my opinion that Len is Canada’s version of John Rutter,” says Birrell. “Len is an amazingly versatile composer and arranger, and we have chosen to highlight his music at this concert.”

For soprano and Singers’ member Pam Birrell the connection to Ballantine is a personal one. She recalls attending music summer camp as a youth with Ballantine, and credits him being “the greatest mentor for me for choral music.”

“He wrote fantastic music and knew how to teach it to us unruly bunch of teens,” she says. “He had a depth, a kindness, a passion, a desire for excellence that challenged us to want to achieve greatness in contemporary choral music.”

Ballantine will bring along with him the highly regarded Yorkminster Citadel Band under the direction of bandmaster Greg Colley. They will join the Singers and organist Ian Sadler, creating an awe-inspiring sound that will shake George Street United Church to its foundations.

The Nov. 29 concert will also feature the premiere of a new carol written by a local man, Ted Vanya. Vanya, 87, is a retired chemist who lives in Havelock and is a refugee from the Hungarian crisis of 1956. Syd Birrell describes his carol as “a gem of a little piece.”

Among the many classic Christmas favorites will be Praetorious’s “Ein Kindelein,” as well as “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “The First Nowell,” and many others.

Come join the Singers for a truly magical and heart-warming evening of excellent music, laughter, and sing-along Christmas cheer.