This time of year carries a mix of emotions for people, myself included. It is meant to be a time of love but it also filled with a season of loss. However, there is something magically soothing just hearing violins playing in unison and the harmony of a choir that can really lift your spirits. Going to The Capitol Theatre here in Windsor, Ontario to see Toldo Holiday Pops – 12 Days of Canadian Christmas, presented by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO), feels like that hot cup of cocoa in your belly on a cold winter’s day – especially with tiny marshmallows on top!
With his sixth season as WSO’s Musical Director, Robert Franz is truly a sight to see! His contagious spirit radiates when he is conducting. His discipline and poise really bring something very special to this show that is definitely a crowd-pleaser for all ages. With a flounce in his step, Robert’s passion is undeniable. He is a musical marvel with a cheeky humour, complete with colourful and deliberate mismatched socks.
On vocals, Sara Fontaine steps onto the stage. With an extensive background in music, teaching and owning her own studio here in Windsor-Essex County, Sara’s voice can stop you in your tracks. Singing “Joy To The World” in a jazzy/gospel style and hitting the high note in “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” will melt your heart. She is a powerhouse of sound and those were my two favourite sung by her.
The evening started out with a beautiful Overture on French Carols, and you could hear many favourites throughout the 2-hour show, such as: Little Drummer Boy, Feliz Navidad, Waltz of the Flowers, and a medley from the Polar Express film. The WSO orchestra chorus raised the bar with a chilling rendition of O’Holy Night that deserved a standing ovation.
The highlight of the evening was bringing best-selling book, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree, written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, to life with music. A hilarious tribute to all things Canadian, including beaver tails, caribous, and of course, The Stanley Cup.
Not forgetting our Jewish friends, several Hanukkah songs were played, with the adorable Music Moves Kids choir from Director, Erin Armstrong and Windsor Essex Youth Choir from Danielle Sirek.
Of course, you cannot forget the big jolly guy who made a special appearance and made all the kids eyes light up. Some children wanted slime, others asked for an Elf on the Shelf. However, the best reply to “What would you like for Christmas?” had to be a little girl name Grace, who responded with, “I want a horse!” Clearly some planning went into that gift request!
Not surprising, it was announced that the Toldo Holiday Pops had a sold-out performance. If you’ve never been to the symphony before, I would recommend dipping your toes into this holiday show in the future and experiencing Maestro Franz and his exceptional team. After all, “without music, life would be a mistake” ― Friedrich Nietzsche.
The WSO returns on January 26 with French Connections, a journey of musical colours and textures by French composers. The program features a traditional French song, and Claude Debussy’s impressionistic suite Printemps. Members of the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra will join the WSO on stage and perform Faure’s Masques et Bergamasques.
The performance also showcases the World Premiere of Toronto-based composer Jordan Pal’s Trombone Concerto and Saint Saëns innovative Symphony No. 2 in A minor.