Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dec 20: Christmas Presence Set List (North Shore)

Nelson Boschmann
Peter La Grand
Sheree Plett & Jeremy Eisenhauer
Rick Colhoun
Brett Ziegler
Becca Robertson

Ron Reed

Nelson | Three Ships
Ron | Christmas Dream | Eugene Petersen
Peter | Zion
Ron | The Innkeeper | Frederick Buechner
Sher & Jer | I Wonder As I Wander
Ron | The Dark of Winter | Rory Holland
Nelson | Maybe This Christmas (Ron Sexsmith)
Ron | Creche | Nicola Colhoun
Sher & Jer | What Child Is This
Peter | Come To Us Emmanuel
Ron | Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas | Garrison Keillor
Nelson | STAR OF WONDER (Sufjan Stevens)

Ron | Advent | Robert Farrar Capon
Nelson | Emmanuel (Amy Grant)
Ron | Southern Magi | Unknown
Ron | Three Wise Women | Unknown
Sher & Jer | Lights Used To Shine
Nelson | Christmas Time Is Her (Jars of Clay version)
Ron | Keen Sense Of Occasion | John Lekich
Sher & Jer | Cloakroom
Ron | Birth: ends "unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" | Ron Reed
Peter & Becca | Mary's Song
Ron | Snow Angel | Tom Carson
Sher & Jer | O Emmanuel
Ron | Emmanuel: ends "Emmanuel. Emmanuel." | Frederick Buechner
Peter | King Of Kings

Some of tonight's readings, and readings from other nights - and years - can be found at the Oblations blog, here...

State of the Art: Matching Fund / How we're doing

Greetings from Pacific Theatre.

A long letter, I know. If you don't have time to read it all, please just skip to the parts in bold lettering. But I wanted to give you a fairly thorough understanding of how your theatre company is progressing as we reach the end of this most challenging year – and a once-in-our-history opportunity to help us through.

A couple months ago I circulated a note describing Pacific Theatre's difficult situation in the wake of a summer in which our grants and donations fell $72,500 short of what was projected based on previous years. Almost a third of what we need for our entire season in two devastating months.

Thanks to many of you, we're still here, with our staff and our programming intact. Thank you.

One friend of the theatre stepped forward and replaced the $25,000 worth of matching funds which had been withdrawn by another donor – so if you gave to Pacific Theatre in response to our matching fund appeal this spring, those gifts have now all been matched. A number of you subscribed, others provided low-interest or no-interest loans to sustain us until deferred or delayed funding was forthcoming. And many have sent extra donations these past two months that are making an immense difference. Remember the end of It's A Wonderful Life? We've felt a bit like George Bailey, deeply moved as so many of our friends take extraordinary measures to see us through. Again, thank you.

We're not out of the woods yet, but we can see light ahead through the trees.

Each December, we pull together a special Christmas Matching Fund, so that your donations are doubled by a foundation and small number of added donors. In past seasons we have specified the amount we need to bring in to fully take advantage of that fund, which is usually somewhere between $12,000 and $20,000. This year only, because of Pacific Theatre's unusually difficult situation, a "silent partner" is willing to extend that fund by as much as an additional $30,000 or more – funds which truly will not be available again in future seasons – and if we "max out" that fund, we have just received word that we've been awarded another $22,000 federal government grant which would pay half of a much-needed new lighting system. (Our current dimming system has been literally on the verge of collapse since January of this year.) All told, as much as $68,000 of new donations can be matched by various sources over the next thirty days.

If all those good news numbers make is sound as though Pacific Theatre doesn't need you any more, that's exactly wrong. There are people who can match your gifts – and this is reliable funding, that will not be withdrawn on us – but every penny of it is predicated on your giving, between now and January 15.

And every penny of it is needed. In a different season, the new lighting equipment would be our top priority – this December, we can't even begin to address that need until we find at least another $30,000 to maintain our staff and programming. Quite specifically, The Passion Project (the performance art piece we are bringing in from New York as part of the PuSh Festival) needs another $13,000 in sponsorship from corporations, foundations or individuals to break even, and Refuge Of Lies (my own play, developed at Pacific Theatre, which played Off-Broadway a year ago) requires another $17,500. Our normal sources of funding for such works – The Vancouver Foundation and other groups which rely on interest generated from investments, or corporations which usually have a certain amount of discretionary sponsorship money for such projects – have not yet recovered from the global economic downturn. So we are turning to you.

Trust me, this won't be an ongoing situation. We have come up with some exhilarating new strategies to restructure our company's 2010-2011 season to work within these new fiscal realities. We'll still provide a remarkable array of sparkling shows that are "pure Pacific Theatre," but in ways that will take the strain off our staff and allow us not to have to make extra appeals to you, our community.

Meanwhile, though... Please consider sending us what you can over the next few weeks. Whether it's because you're reaching the end of your tax year, and want to round out your charitable donations. Or because it's Christmas, and divine largesse is in the air. Or just because you want to play a part to help Pacific Theatre leave behind our annus horribilis and move into a New Year with a new lease on our creative life...

Yet again, I say, thank you.

Ron Reed,
Artistic & Executive Director,
Pacific Theatre

To contribute to our Christmas Matching Campaign...

you can send or drop off your donations to
Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver BC Canada, V6H 1M8

If you'd like to use your credit card, you can also...

phone in your donations to our office (731-5483) or box office (604 731-5518)

or donate online at
(once there, click on the link "To Donate...")

Dec 19: Christmas Presence Set List (Valley)

Nelson Boschmann
Tom Pickett
Crystal Hicks
Michael Hart
Anna Vandas

Ron Reed
Heather Mason
Shalyn McFaul
Ben Miller

Set One
Nelson | Joy To The World
Ron | Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas | Garrison Keillor
Tom | Please Come Home For Christmas
Crystal | Who Would Imagine A King
Nelson | Blue In Green
Ron | Loneliness | Tim Anderson
Ron | The Christ Of Charlie Edenshaw | Loren Wilkinson
Michael | Huron Carol
Ron | Reverie | John Howison
Nelson | O Tannenbaum
Anna, Heather | The First Noel
Ron | Creche | Nicola Colhoun
Crystal | What Child Is This

Set Two
Nelson | I Saw Three Ships
Ron | Christ Climbed Down | Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Crystal | O Happy Day
Anna | Once In Royal David's City
Shay, Ben | The Xmas Files | Cammuso
Tom | Christmas Celebration (B.B. King)
Michael | Coventry Carol
Ron | A Time To Be Born | Loren Wilkinson
Nelson | Christmas Time Is Here
Ron | A Keen Sense Of Occasion | John Lekich
Tom | Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Ron | Christmas Prayer | R.L Stevenson
Anna | On This Holy Night

Some of tonight's readings, and readings from other nights - and years - can be found at the Oblations blog, here...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Presence | Audience Response

Hello Alison,

I must express a very warm and appreciative THANK YOU for Christmas Presence. We took some friends who had never been to PT before and we all had a rich and satisfying experience that exceeded our expectations.

This was our first time to Christmas Presence and had no idea what the evening was going to entail - we were expecting some sort of Christmas themed dramatic production. When we entered the theatre and found the stage area teeming with all those eclectic instruments my heart was suddenly peaked with anticipation. I had a sense that this was going to be a real treat. Still, I had no understanding of the exquisite, delectable richness of what we were about to experience. It was truly delicious and I savored every moment! I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone who contributes to making this event the rare privilege that it is. We intend to experience every future Christmas Presence for as long as they are offered - this is now something that we just 'do' at Christmas.

I know I've gushed a bit here Alison, but I just wanted you to know what a great blessing Christmas Presence was to me, to my wife and our friends.

Thanks again,

Greg Hamm

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yesterday afternoon was the last of something like 13 school matinees performed (and organized!) by two of PT's apprentices, Kaitlin Williams and Joel Stephanson. Wednesday we had a blast doing a photo shoot together. I've not yet looked through all the photos, but here are some favourites to start with.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Behind the WARDROBE: Preliminary Costume Sketches

Our wonderful costume designer, Naomi Sider, has sent over some of her preliminary costume sketches for THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE! If you've seen the show already, have a look over the images and enjoy seeing what was kept, what changed, and the original inspirations for Peter, Lucy, and the whole gang's look. If you haven't made it out to the theatre yet, well, you've still got plenty of time! Here's your sneak preview into how Naomi helped create the world of Narnia.

Thanks to Naomi for sharing her sketches!

IMAGE Journal: Top Ten of 2009

Next to Pacific Theatre, IMAGE Journal is the coolest collision of art and faith on this continent. Speaking objectively. You oughta subscribe. And if you're cheap, or even if you're not, you ought to subscribe to their free bi-weekly email newsletter, ImageUpdate - which just named its Top Ten of 2009. Here's what they have to say about that. Click on the titles for more.

Domestic Vision: Twenty-five Years of the Art of Joel Sheesley, edited by Gregg Hertzlieb
The theme of domesticity is at the heart of Joel Sheesley's work. With his lucid technical mastery and wonderfully strange sense of composition, he paints canvases that draw out the profound weirdness of the everyday. His eye is generous; his portraits of suburbanites are made with a deadly-clear perception but also a full and loving sympathy. Domestic Vision--a meditation on a retrospective of Sheesley's work shown recently at the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University--probes the contours of home as a place where the mundane bumps up against sudden truths only half-seen.

Erin McGraw's recent novel, The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard, captures the rushing, bewildering newness of Los Angeles at the dawn of the last century, a city populated by people who have left the past behind and where identity is up for grabs--if a person has enough desire, ruthlessness, and grit, that is. Nell Plat of Mercer County, Kansas, is loosely based on the author's grandmother, who abandoned her young family without a word to remake herself in the West. The Kansas sod house that irascible Nell shares with her husband and tight-lipped in-laws is cramped and stifling with old grudges.

New Tracks, Night Falling by Jeanne Murray Walker
The sense of disconnection and loss in Jeanne Murray Walker's new collection of poems can barely be touched by words. And Walker admits this right away in her first poem, addressed to a dead neighbor: “You've gone AWOL and only Jesus / can bring you back. Not tears, / not rain. Not this poem.” Having thus acknowledged the limitations of her words, Walker nevertheless reaches for a language to grapple with this and other losses. She enlists unusual metaphors to do the job—the dead friend becomes “an ocean who's abandoned / its bed. The sky who folded up / its blue tent and traveled south.”

Usher by B.H. Fairchild
If you missed the chance to read B.H. Fairchild's “Trilogy” in Image #56, you're in luck, twice over. The three-poem work was just reprinted in the 2009 Pushcart Prize anthology, and it also appears as what Fairchild has called the centerpiece of his new poetry collection, Usher. The usher of the title is Nathan Gold, a theology student and movie-theater usher in 1950's New York, who tries, in a dramatic monologue, to figure out what his theology professors Tillich and Niebuhr have to do with Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando.

In her debut novel, The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight, Gina Ochsner tells the tangled stories of a handful of unlikely neighbors who inhabit a condemned apartment building in post-Soviet Russia, in the city of Perm, Siberia. First we meet Olga, a Jewish woman and a lover of words who works as a “translation officer” for the Red Star newspaper, where her unfortunate job is to make the news more palatable for the public: military casualties must be rounded down to “acceptable figures,” and a horrific event must never make it to the public “in its raw and undiluted version.”

Pierce Pettis: That Kind of Love
Pierce Pettis's songwriting keeps getting better—and that's saying a lot. With That Kind of Love, he has produced another collection of unskippable gems. The eagerly awaited album was four years in the making, and in the liner notes Pettis writes that the extra time allowed the songs to mature and develop. It shows. The emotional and theological richness, the playfulness and lyricism of his writing, and the power of his storytelling continue to grow. As one music critic noted, “Pierce Pettis doesn't write mere songs; he writes literature.”

Nurse Jackie on Showtime
Showtime has a new series you may have seen advertised, starring Edie Falco, formerly of The Sopranos. It's called Nurse Jackie and it is already off to a great start. Here's the set-up: there's this emergency room nurse who's tough, quietly kind, and fiercely devoted to her vocation. But she also does Percocet and OxyContin and Vicodin on the job for her bad back and stress levels, while having an affair with the hospital pharmacist. She takes a long subway ride home (after double shifts) to her hunky husband and two sweet daughters. The hospital she works at is clearly Catholic; there's a corridor leading to the chapel that has a statue of Raphael's transfigured Christ at the end of the hallway.

Dave Perkins: Pistol City Holiness
Recently nominated for two Grammy awards, Dave Perkins' Pistol City Holiness is a stirring collection of mournful Delta blues and gritty Southern rock featuring Perkins' unnerving guitar and rugged, impolite vocals that plumb the unapologetic depths of old-fashioned blues despair. Perkins, a legendary producer and session musician, covers expected thematic ground—love, fights, failures, and plain bad luck—but his lyrics are vividly inventive. On “Preacher Blues,” a tale of unrequited love and spiritual struggle, Perkins blindsides the listener with the opening line: “She's a helluva woman when she's all dressed up for church.”

The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain by Scott Cairns
Scott Cairns prefaces The End of Suffering, the nonfiction book that grew out of his 2006 keynote address at the Glen Workshop, by naming the work for what it is: an essay into the subject of suffering, of human affliction and pain. “I hope to find some sense in affliction,” Cairns writes, “hoping – just as I have come to hope about experience in general – to make something of it.” And what Cairns does, with prose that strides perfectly across the page, is precisely this; he writes to make sense of the suffering we encounter, and cause, and know in our own lives.

Memoirs that center on a conversion experience are common enough, but they can often become cerebral, focused on an inner, intellectual journey. The deepest and most memorable conversion stories embed the journey of the mind within the pilgrimage of the heart; in doing so they anchor theological matters in the small, dense worlds of work and family life. Maggie Kast, who has written on dance for Image (#19), has published just such a memoir, The Crack Between the Worlds. Kast has a harrowing story to tell—including the death of one child and the mystery of another child's disability—but threads of grace and light run parallel to the pain of loss.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Behind the WARDROBE: An Interview with Donna-Lea Ford

We're going to keep getting to know the people behind the performances! Further to my series of interviews with CHRISTMAS PRESENCE performers (more to come!) and the lovely video interviews with THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE director Kerry van der Griend and sound designers Jeff Tymoschuk and Corina Akeson, it's time for you to meet Lucy! ... and by Lucy of course, I mean the lovely Donna-Lea Ford.

PT: Introduce Yourself.
DLF: Donna-Lea Ford - Vancouver born and been involved in the t.v, film, and theatre industry here in Vancouver for more years than she cares to really admit, with time taken off for good behaviour - or having two children anyways.

PT: When were you first exposed to the world of Narnia? What drew you to it?
DLF: I wish I could say it was one of those great childhood memories that transported me into the wardrobe but, alas, what brought me to the story was looking for good literature to read to my own children. We read it to our son when he was four and it captivated me. And so, I came to it as an adult through the eyes of a child. Lovely really.

PT: Who is your favorite character to play in this story?
DLF: This is a hard one to answer because they are all so wonderful in their own way. I love Lucy and her fearless commitment to the magic of the story, her faith, her naivete, her passion, honesty, and spirited nature. And, who wouldn't want the opportunity to play out the delicious darkness of the White Witch?

PT: How do you feel this story works as a theatre adaptation with two actors?
DLF: The story played by two actors is magical. It is a great opportunity for me as an actor to play so many roles but most importantly, I think, it is a very beautiful way to experience the story that C.S. Lewis penned. It asks of the audience - like the novel asks of the reader - to be an active member of the story. They must jump into the magic with us and use their imaginations to transport them from spare room, to the woods of Narnia, to the witches castle. It's almost like jumping into the mind of a child and how we all once 'played'.

PT: Why should people see the show?
DLF: Why should people see the show? Because I am in it! No. Really? Oh, how does someone so close to and so invested in it answer that? I do believe in the story so much. And, what a perfect time of year to see a piece of theatre that still believes in the 'magic' of this world and beyond. The sound design, lighting and costumes are also really lovely. I am told that in one sound cue, a little girl 'gasp' at the magic of it. That makes it worth while!

PT: What has been your most "epic" journey?
DLF: Childbirth. No question about that! Oh, and memorizing this show!

What They're Saying about WARDROBE

"It's truly astounding what can be done with two actors, minimal props and minimal costumes." -Jo Ledingham, The Vancouver Courier

"I took two clients of mine who have special needs to THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE and we enjoyed the performance very much. It was what live theatre should be. WE LOVED IT!" -Alina Villa, email

"The actors are
engaging and talented, making the most of a spare environment to fill the tiny theatre with an epic storyline from a perspective that supports the source material but does not reinvent it. I thought it was lovely." -Rebeccah Mullen, Yoyo Mama

flight of imagination you are transported from great forests to Witch’s castles and from stone stables to battle fields; until finally the adventure is over and you are back in the spare room wondering whether you ever really left. And just like Peter and Lucy, you look at your watch. Did we really re-live all of that in such a short time? That’s the magic of Narnia…and the magic of the Pacific Theatre." -Olivia Bevan, Review Vancouver

"The show is
magicaland the script is clever." - Sarah Maitland, Geist

"Theatre doesn’t get much better than thiswith its perfect mix of story, technical expertise and actors who transport us easily to a different time and place. ... Whether you are, like me, a fan of the book from childhood, a parent who has recently told the story to your children at bedtime, or simply discovering it for the very first time,
you simply cannot miss the magic that is happening on stage here in what is a nearly perfect piece of theatre." -Mark Robins, Gay Vancouver

The world of Narnia comes to life thanks to the two actors and well-crafted lighting and sound design. ... Kudos go to Kyle Rideout for his impressive transformations, achieved in part by his subtle yet effective physical and vocal changes. At one point, Rideout goes back and forth between both Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, in distinctive voices and personalities, making for one of the most memorable parts of the show. ... In the end Pacific Theatre provides
a commendable night of theatre." -Mana Mansour, The Link

"The performance tonight reminded me of how
magical the story is, and how this time of year allows us to step down from our moral high ground for fantasy and magic. ... A night well spent." Leni T. Goggins, Geist

Christmas Presence Preview: Meet Steve Klassen

A member of the Mennonite Jazz Committee with Nelson Boschman, Steve Klassen is a staple to the Fraser Valley music scene. Hard to believe this is his first CHRISTMAS PRESENCE! Be sure to catch him at the Abbotsford performance on Saturday, December 19th at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium for a jazz-gospel inspired Christmas Presence.

Steve in a recording session with The Mennonite Jazz Committee

PT: Introduce yourself.
SK: Steve Klassen - Executive Director of Mark Centre (

PT: How long have you been involved in Christmas Presence?
SK: This will be my first as a participant.

PT: What's your favourite aspect of being involved in CP?
SK: Atmosphere for humility and an appreciation for human stories impressed me in the past.

PT: What other music-related projects are you working on right now?
SK: Lots of trumpet requests around the Christmas season. I am trying to stay close to home and playing with my local church during Christmas Eve.

PT: If you weren't playing music, what would you spend your time doing?
SK: I love gardening. I have 6 kids so I love following them around and watching their lives unfold.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dec 15: Christmas Presence Set List

Sheree Plett & Jeremy Eisenhauer
Lance Odegard
Michael Hart
Nelson Boschman | piano
Brett Ziegler | keyboards
Kathleen Nisbett | fiddle
Becca Robertson | bass
Kenton Wiens | drums
Rick Colhoun | percussion

Ron Reed

Set One
Sher & Jer | Angels We Have Heard
Ron | Christmas Dream | Eugene Petersen
Lance | When The Ship Comes In
Ron | Advent | Robert Farrar Capon
Michael | Light Of The Stable
Ron | Annunciation | Frederic Buechner
Sher & Jer | What Child Is This
Nelson | Angels We Have Heard
Ron | Quartet | Tim Anderson
Laurell | You Came
Lance | In The Bleak Midwinter
Ron | Santa Claus: An Engineer's Perspective | unknown
Laurell | Jingle Bells

Set Two
Ron | George's Holiday Message | George Carlin
Lance | Disturber
Ron | Journey of the Magi | T.S. Eliot
Lance | Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight
Ron | Southern Magi | unknown
Ron | Three Wise Women | unknown
Sher & Jer | I Wonder As I Wander
Ron | The Secret of the Gifts | Paul Flucke
Michael | Polish Carol
Laurell | Wrapped Up In You
Sher & Jer | Cloakroom
Ron | A Child's Christmas In Wales | Dylan Thomas
Michael | Candle

Index of Christmas Presence readings from previous seasons

Christmas Presence Rush Tickets

Lots of last-minute sales for CHRISTMAS PRESENCE. At present, maybe two tickets left for tonight? Sat Dec 19 in the Valley and Sun Dec 20 on the North Shore still available. Online or by phone: 604 731-5518.

Before long I hope to post set lists for the shows so far, and a few more of the readings at Oblations. (To see what's already there, just check December postings for the past few seasons, you'll find stuff. Hmm, I ought to make a little index of those some day...)

Christmas Presence Preview: Meet Michael Hart

Michael Hart, a fantastic and prolific local musician and worship leader, will be joining the troupe for CHRISTMAS PRESENCE tonight! If you don't already have your tickets (only a few left!), he will also be performing this Saturday, December 19th in Abbotsford. So you can breathe - you haven't missed your chance!

"For over a decade he's been sculpting some of the most thoughtful and soulful Christian music available, skillfully renewing both heart and mind. Hart's music style is wonderfully eclectic: a mix of hymn, ballad, blues, medieval, pop and rock even a taste of country. The variety would be, in less agile hands, bewildering. In Hart's hands he manages all with adeptness making each musical genre his own element. For fans, Lord of the Mountain is the work we have been waiting for from Michael, distilling his deep intelligence as a songwriter and his passion as a man after God's own heart". -Mark Buchanan, on Michael's album
Lord of the Mountain. From his website.

PT: Introduce yourself.
MH: Michael Hart, recording artist, songwriter

PT: How long have you been involved in Christmas Presence?
MH: 20 years

PT: What's your favourite aspect of being involved in CP?
MH: Having fun, seeing the Arts touch people's lives.

PT: What other music-related projects are you working on right now?
MH: Just finished a retrospective CD " So Far So Good"

PT: If you weren't playing music, what would you spend your time doing?
MH: Probably teaching or pastoring

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dec 14: Christmas Presence credits

Michael Hart
Peter La Grand
Lance Odegard
Anna Vandas
Nelson Boschman | piano
Brett Ziegler | keyboards
Kathleen Nisbett | fiddle
Becca Robertson | bass
Kenton Wiens | drums
Rick Colhoun | percussion

Ron Reed
Kaitlin Williams
Peter Carlone
Mack Gordon

Set One
Michael | All Hail And Welcome
Ron | William Nicholson | Christmas Drinks Party
Ron | Dickens | A Christmas Carol
Ron | Frederick Buechner | Emmanuel
Peter | Hear Now You House Of David
Peter & Kaitlin | Xmas Files
Lance | Disturber
Ron | Rory Holland | Nativity
Laurell | You Came
Ron | Tim Anderson | Re: Loneliness Can Be Contagious
Lance | Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight
Ron | Rory Holland | Frail Humanity
Anna Vandas | The First Noel
Peter | Santa's Little Helper | David Sedaris
Laurell | Jingle Bells

Set Two
Lance | Angels We Have Heard
Ron | Garrison Keillor, The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas
Michael | Si Nous Marchon
Ron | Creche
Laurell | Wrapped Up In You
Mack, Kaitlin | Various Authors | Joseph & Mary
Peter | Mary's Song
Michael | Mary Did You Know
Rick, Michael, Nelson | Instrumental: Jesus Christ The Apple Tree
Ron | Annie Dillard, Feast Days
Ron | Shadowlands ending: "Think of the magic, Christopher..."
Ron | Reverie
Anna Vandas | On This Holy Night
Ron | W.H. Auden, For the Time Being
Peter | King Of Kings

Other of these readings may be posted in the days (and years) to come: check the Index of Christmas Readings over at the Oblations blog

Christmas Presence Preview: Meet Garth Bowen

Without further ado... Garth Bowen!

PT: Introduce Yourself
GB: I run the Music Department at Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond B.C. I have had a great deal of experience playing in Christian music circles, from opening for big name acts in the 70's to traveling with the Graham Ord Band in the 90's. Currently, I do a lot of extra curricular events with students and also help to prepare them for the life ahead in music or life in general. I also run my own side business, "Our House Music," producing others, writing and recording, performing and supporting the arts in a variety of ways.

PT: How long have you been involved in Christmas Presence?
I've been involved in CP since the very beginning, having worked with Ron and cast in the first PT staging of Cotton Patch Gospel. Ron and I have been friends, fellow parishoners, and neighbors since our kids were very small. My wife and Ron's wife Carol are also good friends.

PT: What's your favourite aspect of being involved in Christmas Presence?
GB: I'd have to say that CP is my favorite event, although I've seen some amazing plays over the years. Father Damien is one of those. I really enjoy working with other musicians who believe in PT. It's an opportunity for me, a non actor, to be able to step on stage and be a part of the goodness of the vision.

PT: What other music-related projects are you working on right now?
GB: I started producing a demo record for a young local artist I believe shows a great deal of promise. I'm working on a new recording of my own. I'm teaching music composition to an eager group of students who are keen to write and make music. I'm also involved with music and art in my church and working with other musicians in the lower mainland.

PT: If you weren't playing music, what would you spend your time doing?
GB: I'm very involved teaching and doing extra work with young people, so when I find myself with free time I spend a lot of it playing music, writing, meeting with other musicians, and working on self made musical projects in my home studio. I also love my summer life up the coast cruising the nooks and crannies of the Sunshine coast.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dec 13: Christmas Presence credits (at PT)

Sheree Plett & Jeremy Eisenhauer
Peter La Grand
Anna Vandas
Garth Bowen
Nelson Boschman | piano
Brett Ziegler | keyboards
Kathleen Nisbett | fiddle
Becca Robertson | bass
Kenton Wiens | drums
Rick Colhoun | percussion

Ron Reed

Set One
Sher & Jer | I Wonder As I Wander
Ron | Dickens | A Christmas Carol
Ron | William Nicholoson | Christmas Drinks Party
Ron | Frederick Buechner | Emmanuel
Peter | King Of Kings
Anna | Once In Royal David's City
Ron | Garrison Keillor | The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas
Garth | Go Tell It
Sher & Jer | Lights Used To Shine
Ron | Tim Anderson | Re: Loneliness Can Be Contagious
Garth | God Rest Ye
Anna | On This Holy Night

Set Two
Nelson | Christmas Time Is Here
Sher & Jer | Time Of Year
Ron | Sedaris | Front Row Centre with Thaddeus Bristol
Garth | Alleluia ("Christmas Song")
Ron | Unknown | Southern Magi
Ron | Unknown | Three Wise Women
Peter, Anna | Mary's Song
Ron | Dowie | Three Wise Men
Peter | Zion
Ron | Paul Flucke | The Secret of the Gifts
Anna | The First Noel
Sher & Jer | Cloakroom

Index of Christmas Presence readings from previous seasons

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Presence Preview: Meet Anna Vandas

The second in my series of mini-interviews with the performers of CHRISTMAS PRESENCE: Anna Vandas! A multi-talented, all around "creative person," Anna is a wonderful lady to keep around.

Anna's bio, taken from
her website:
When I was a child, I was always making something, whether it was a pencil-crayon picture, a fairy tale story, or a play-dough land with little ball-people. In my adult life I have explored many forms of creativity, including song-writing, singing, sewing, photography, graphic design, painting, jewelry-making, and dance. I believe that we all have creativity in our bones, even if it's currently sleeping in some.

The last few years I've particularly been honing my musical, painting, and dance abilities, and hopefully smashing them all together will create something strange and wonderful! My debut album was released in 2005, "All I Thought I Knew", and has been a successful and exciting endeavor. There will definitely be many more albums and tours to come in the near future. With painting, I have been creating images inspired by nature on this earth, with a consistent and growing base of clients. Finally, in dance, I dove into a full-time school at Dance Barn Studios three years ago, and it's been a challenging time of conditioning, training, and learning how to work in creative collaboration and community.

My husband Dave (a very talented filmmaker) and I live in Greater Vancouver, BC, and enjoy spurring each other on to keep at our dreams. Our mutual motto is "We Like To Make Stuff"... because it's true.

When I see something I like, I don't think, "how can I buy that?".

I think, "how can I make that?".
And, without further ado, her interview!

PT: Introduce yourself.
AV: Anna Vandas - singer-songwriter, artist, dancer

PT: How long have you been involved in Christmas Presence?
AV: This is my first year with Christmas Presence
(PT: Like Peter La Grand, Anna was a part of this year's PRESENCE in September, so she may be a familiar face!)

PT: What's your favourite aspect of being involved in Christmas Presence?
AV: Favourite aspect... the collaboration with other musicians and getting to sing with them on their songs. The beautiful way the meaning of the song is transformed as it pairs with a reading.

PT: What other music-related projects are you working on right now?
AV: Playing local (BC) shows, writing for next album

PT: If you weren't playing music, what would you spend your time doing?
AV: Painting & making lots of stuff...

Dec 20: Jeff Johnson, First Baptist Advent Candlelight Service

I met Jeff Johnson at Schloss Mittersill half a decade ago, in Austria. His recent recording with Phil Keaggy is getting some press. Jeff'll be up to do the First Baptist Advent Candlelight service...

Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning with Wendy Goodwin
Dec. 20, 2009
First Baptist Church
969 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y1, Canada
(604) 683-8441
Tickets admission is free
Time 7:00 PM

“…their sense of melodic invention flows like a Celtic breeze.”
– Billboard Magazine

The American/Irish duo’s music has become a mainstay in the Contemporary Celtic music genre with acclaimed releases such as Byzantium, The Bard & The Warrior, Patrick, A Quiet Knowing and Benediction. Their songs have been featured on many best selling contemporary instrumental compilations including those released by Windham Hill (Adagio, Celtic Christmas, Winter Solstice, Carols of Christmas) and Hearts of Space (Celtic Twilight). They have also had music featured in films such as Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York and accompanying the classic children’s book, The Tale Of Three Trees.

Many of the songs from the duo’s popular Christmas recordings, A Quiet Knowing Christmas and Stars In The Morning East - A Christmas Meditation will be performed in this concert along with music from Brian and Jeff’s latest recording, King Raven Vols. 1 - 3, based on the best-selling novels by Stephen R. Lawhead.

Johnson’s recent solo efforts include, Journey Prayers, Vespers and Standing Still which reflect his work with Selah, a contemplative worship service he presents in many churches. He has also just released Frio Suite with guitarist, Phil Keaggy. He lives on Camano Island, Washington with his wife, Susie.

Dunning’s latest solo recording is Puck Fair’s Forgotten Carnival. He is a former member of the band, Nightnoise (Shadow Of Time, Something Of Time) and lives in County Kildare with his wife, Fiona and three sons, Gordon, Jack & Julian.

Violinist Wendy Goodwin is distinguishing herself as a versatile and creative presence in the Pacific Northwest and beyond through unique violin stylings joining classical, jazz and Americana. With stints in NYC and Nashville, Wendy has established herself as a popular session player and guest performer with artists ranging from Jeff Johnson and Michael Allen Harrison to Michelle Tumes and Miss America 2002 Katie Harman. In addition to freelance performances, Wendy is a small business owner, the founder of Effesenden Music, providing customized music ensembles and musical arrangements for weddings, events, recording sessions, and benefit concerts. Goodwin has released three recordings of her own. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Andy, and daughter, Vienna.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Presence Preview: Meet Peter La Grand

CHRISTMAS PRESENCE is right around the corner, and it's time to meet our performers! I'll be posting mini-interviews (minterviews?) every so often from now until the last Christmas Presence closes on December 20th.

First up... Peter La Grand!

Firmly rooted in the musical traditions of folk and Americana, the music of Peter La Grand is both familiar and unique. Though his songs echo the heritage of such musical luminaries as CS&N and Cat Stevens, and bear comparison with such contemporary artists as Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Sufjan Stevens, La Grand’s music is set apart by a deep and passionate lyricism and unique instrumentation. A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, La Grand started playing the guitar in high school, and soon began writing his own songs. At the age of twenty, he bought a van, traveled across America, and performed wherever he could. -taken from his page

And here's his mini-interview!

Introduce yourself.

PL: Peter La Grand, Project Manager for PHS Community Services Society, a not-for-profit society that helps house the hard to house in the downtown eastside (DTES) of Vancouver.

PT: How long have you been involved in Christmas Presence

PL: This is my first year!

(PT: We would like to point out that he did perform in PRESENCE in September, so he's not quite a PT newbie. Although we love his enthusiasm!)

PT: What other music-related projects are you working on right now?

PL: I have just released a third album with my band Ordinary Time. We record and perform old hymns and new scripture based songs. As a band we are interested in the interrelationship of faith and art, social justice and old hymns. I also just returned from our first shows in the SouthEast United States. I am also working on a new album to be finished sometime in the spring. New tracks can be heard at

I also lead worship at my church once a month.

PT: If you weren't playing music, what would you spend your time doing?

PL: Being with my wife, farming, reading novels, or recording music.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

PT is one of "25 Ways To Christmas"

City In Focus is a terrific Vancouver organization that works not only with the business community downtown but also with people in the Downtown East Side. Each December they turn Christmas into a verb, publishing "25 Ways To Christmas," a calendar full of ideas for making this season something more than the dreaded consumer binge. Tthis year, Pacific Theatre sits cosily on December 17th! With this little tagline: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is playing at the Pacific Theatre until Jan 2, Wed-Sat 8pm, and Sat 2pm. What a great way to take some kids out and give mom a break. Call the Box Office: 604.731.5518."

And let me also mention this. A few years ago, City In Focus helped Pacific Theatre set up a fund to help people see our shows who otherwise might not be able to because of cost. THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE is the perfect opportunity to use this program for families you might know: just call Alison at the Pacific Theatre admin office (604 731-5483), and she can tell you how to line up complimentary tickets!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nelson Boschman on CHRISTMAS PRESENCE: Jazz, Collaboration, Community

Jazz pianist Nelson Boschman visited the theatre department's Integration Forum at Trinity Western yesterday. As well as playing jazz - that most collaborative of art forms - Nelson is working to establish Artisan, a small fellowship in downtown Vancouver. So he's done lots of thinking about community. Here's part of what he shared Friday...

‘Interdependence’ is a great word, a rich word. It’s very close to another word I really like, which is ‘collaboration’. When you break it down, it becomes even richer – collaboration = to ‘co-labor’, to ‘work together’. Isn’t it something when collaboration is truly happening? I trust all of us have had at least some experience when everyone within a group or team is just humming along like a well-oiled machine.

The setting in which I have had my deepest encounters in interdependent collaboration is with Pacific Theatre here in Vancouver. For a number of years, I’ve had the privilege of being part of some shows – often at Christmas time – in which singers, instrumentalists and dramatic readers come together, bringing their songs and readings. We rehearse for a few hours, have sushi together, and then hit the stage with a two-act performance. The artistic director likes to call it ‘the unslickest Christmas show in town’. But there’s something truly magical about it.

The morning after one of those occasions, I journaled some of my reflections…

“It was like church; or rather, what I wish church was more like. It reminded me of a family gathering – a potluck meal, where everyone brings something, the head chef puts it all together, and the (capital ‘G’) Guest of Honor graces us with His presence in the midst of it all. It’s loose and improvisatory, but not carelessly thrown together.

“There is attention to pairing food and drink, as with song or story to theme, but not in an obsessive, or worse, restrictive way. There is not much preparation on the day of the meal itself, but rather the preparedness happens through the years of practice that have taken place long before we gather together to feast our senses.

“There is a certain order to things, but the predominant feeling is not one of confinement, but spaciousness. It’s like a story, in which, as Henri Nouwen put it, there is “room for us to walk around and find our place.” There is excellence, but not elitism. And there are no show-offy, one-uppy attitudes. It’s about contributing something as individuals that will only nourish people when combined and offered as a collective whole.

“There is profound meaning, but not intellectual imperialism. There is beauty, but it is characterized by simplicity, not ornamental superficiality. And perhaps above all, there is trust. We trust one another to bring our absolute best to the table. We trust that at the times we feel we’re contributing less than our best – for whatever reason – we will be accepted and welcomed anyway. We trust that the stories and songs we bring will help others pay attention to the Divine Presence in the same way they have helped us do likewise.

“And we trust that when it is over, God will have done far more than we can prepare for, ask, or imagine. Soli deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone).”

‘Interdependence’ is counter-cultural. No doubt about it. It flies in the face of our culture’s obsession with ‘independence’. But I hope you will agree with me when I say that collaboration is infinitely more beautiful than our individualistic ‘solo efforts’.

As Canadian jazz piano great Oscar Peterson said, ‘It’s the group sound that’s important, even when you’re playing a solo.’

These photos are from August 2007, at the CD launch of one of Nelson's jazz recordings. If you want to hear what you're seeing, book tickets for Christmas Presence In The Valley, a jazz/gospel/soul edition featuring Nelson Boschman piano, Kenton Wiens drums, Steve Klassen trumpet, Brian Thiessen jazz guitar, Becca Robertson bass, and vocalists Crystal Hicks, Tom Pickett, Anna Vandas and Michael Hart. December 19: Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way, Abbotsford.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lit, by Mary Karr

from The New Yorker, November 23 2009, "Briefly Noted":
Lit, by Mary Karr

This affecting memoir—the third in a series that includes “The Liar’s Club” and “Cherry”—documents Karr’s alcoholism, the breakdown of her marriage, and the unlikely redemption she finds in the Catholic Church. Chased out of Texas by the memories of a horrific childhood, Karr establishes herself as a writer and in graduate school meets a patrician man who becomes her husband. But days spent home alone with their young son find her drinking as her mother once did, “as if our gene pool owed the universe at least one worthless drunk at a time.” Karr’s lurch toward faith is narrated with her familiar irreverence and humor, but this tone does not preclude a more heartfelt expression of the value of faith: “I’d feared surrender would sand me down to nothing. Now I’ve started believing it can bloom me more solidly into myself.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dec 11: Augusta Trio, Railway Club

Karen played Dolly in Pacific Theatre's first production of TENT MEETING back in 1997 - a lovely performance, gorgeous piano, and marvelous arrangements that are still in the show today. Here's a chance to hear what she and her musical friends are up to today...

Friday, December 11th IMU presents LEMMING DYNASTY, AUGUSTA TRIO, PAINTED CITIES & EMMA POSTL @ The Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir . Doors 8pm / Cover $10 @ the door

.....make sure you tell the doorperson at the Railway Club that you have come to see's a little like throwing a quarter in a hat (you'll get the idea).....

PS: there's going to be a lot of great original music this'll not want to miss it:

LEMMING DYNASTY isn't afraid to punctuate their craft with tight arrangements, searing harmonies and riff-heavy bottom grooves. Slick grooves sauced in social outrage meet haunting melodies peppered with a sly irony reminiscent of times when leaving a little to the imagination was as classy as it is classic. One hears elements of grimy '70s funk, dirty grunge, electro punk and progressive jazz. In an era where retro is getting old again and dusty tracksuits grace the covers of sarcastic new wave magazine covers, Lemming Dynasty are out to create the very thing that seduced them in the first place - great rock songs.

AUGUSTA TRIO - The Augusta Trio fuses acoustic simplicity with creatively rhythmic and melodic play to create their folk-jazz sound. Karen Augusta is a musician of three-octave vocals and fluid guitar, piano, and flute fingers. Jason Dionne (bass) and Allan Dionne (drums) have collaborated with her on three recordings to date, with each player bringing a distinct, dynamic voice to their performances. "Augusta's synergy and musicality stirred me emotionally, as true art should do." - Daniel Adair (Nickelback)

PAINTED CITIES create compelling, inventive songs that draw from a wide range of musical styles to form a unique blend of funk, folk, rock and jazz with lyrics that often deal with heavier topics such as relationships, culture and politics. Their infectious, danceable tunes have been heard at venues ranging from music festivals to all-ages community halls to the grittiest bars of downtown Vancouver.

EMMA POSTL's buttermilk chocolate voice delivers an original blend of jazz-vibed two-step that calls to mind influences such as Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley & Neil Young.

Dec 12: Songs & Starlight, Fraserview Church

I decided to give myself over to Advent and the Christmas season this year. Now, I'm not quite ready for Christmas carols in the drug store just yet, but Greg Pennoyer's God With Us is preparing the way. The book - along with the daily readings from the Advent lectionary - have about a hundred and four hours to do their work, with my first Christmas readings this Saturday in a friend's home. Then another week before my buddy Garth Bowen and I stir up Christmas at our church, Fraserview MB. . . .

Garth writes:
"Ron Reed and I will host an evening of Christmas music and readings on Saturday December 12th at Fraserview Church 11295 Mellis Dr. in Richmond. The concert is free and open to all. At the concert we will pass the hat for Pacific Theatre as they have been suffering in this recession along with many others. There will be an intermission and goodies provided. I have a band in place so I'm thinking that my friends who live in the area may want to show up and help us warm up to the wonderful season ahead. Yes, my Christmas CD will be available but the main idea is to enjoy a little guitar filled Christmas jangles with some very entertaining reading. If you are in town and without a Christmas party to attend, come spend the evening with us."

Songs & Starlight
Saturday, December 12 |7:30
Fraserview Church | 11295 Mellis Drive, Richmond

Daryl Spencer | Roots | Naim Falls, Pemberton

Garth's wife Barb curates a gallery in the lobby of our church, the View Gallery. "Roots" is from the exhibition that just closed, an image that is utterly British Columbian at the same time as it evokes for me Lothlorien, Mirkwood, or Tom Bombadil's Old Forest. Carole and I bought the photograph on Sunday, which happened to be the first day of Advent, and as it hangs on our wall by the front door I begin to see it also as an image for this season. The time when we prepare the ground, the bleak midwinter when we tend the soil of our spirits. I usually think of this as a time to drive roots deep, but I'm drawn especially to this mountain tree that grows on rock, tenacious and graceful.