Imagine being recruited to play with professional musicians for a high-profile public concert.
Sounds like every musical teenager’s dream, right?
For the past 15 years, Victoria fiddle guru Daniel Lapp has been offering his young students just such an opportunity through his annual Home for Christmas concerts at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall, which happen this year on Dec. 21 and 22.
The concerts grew out of Lapp’s Joy of Life Choir spring show, which has run for 20 years now. Giving his young students from the Victoria’s Conservatory of Music’s Chwyl Family school of contemporary music and B.C. Fiddle Orchestra a chance to take the stage with seasoned professionals – not to mention adults with his Folkestra and Joy of Life groups – offers a taste of the next level of performance, he notes.
“I don’t put a lot of pressure on the students; the pros carry the show,” he says. “The students bring a kind of a groundedness, a down-home feeling to the concert. And for the audience, they get a professional show, but they kind of feel like they can see themselves on stage.”
The shows include a cross-section of top-notch local and visiting entertainers, with featured soloists and ensemble performances by the Shiny H’ornaments, Swingin’ Shepherds and the Strings of Lights. While Christmas is the theme, no one genre dominates these concerts, with everything from jazz and folk Christmas tunes to classical carols on tap.
Soleil Lapp, Daniel’s 12-year-old daughter, will sing again as one of the guest performers, and Cara Luft, a founding member of Wailin Jennys and now with The Small Glories, will bring her banjo and slot in with various groups.
Lapp, who grew up in Prince George and began developing his strings and other performance skills there, remembers playing the title role in a community theatre production of Oliver when he was 11. The experience made a mark on him, as did subsequent opportunities, he says.
”I felt like I was in the company of people with a lot of experience, and they really mentored me,” he says. As a budding violinist at 15, he was invited to play with the Prince George Symphony. “There I was, sitting in the back of the second violins … Various members would come from Vancouver to fill in, and then there were the soloists. I felt like I was part of something big – I was fortunate to be part of that.”
As he gained a love of folk music, he found people willing to work with him in that community as well. By the time he moved to Victoria to study music, he had a solid grounding in various genres and a broad range of performance experiences.
A show like this one is inspired by the creative atmosphere around the Chwyl school and other Lapp projects. The key is to give the young players confidence in their abilities and the tools to create this kind of opportunity for themselves, he says.
Home for Christmas sees the love of music shine through all the performers, from the pros to the amateur choristers and fiddlers, and that has a definite effect on the audiences, Lapp notes.
“We always get new choir members after it. And the Folkestra is really inspiring for the adults who haven’t played their violins in years.”
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, and 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 22. Tickets are $14.85 to $29.10, available online at ticketfly.com, by phone at 250-386-5311 or at the Conservatory box office, 900 Johnson St.