Concert Review: Bringing in the Season: Christmas with The Little Opera Company and FriendsNovember 30th at First Presbyterian ChurchBy Muriel SmithOn my approach to the doors of First Presbyterian Church the still white snow glistened in the darkness. Winter had arrived, providing the perfect backdrop for the Little Opera Company’s Christmas concert. Four spectacular women singers, Sydney Clarke, Donnalynn Grills, Margot Harding and Shannon Unger shared the stage with an equal number of boys choirs, the Kelvin High School Boys Choir, the Pembina Trails Boys Choir, the École Sisler Boys Choir, and the Winnipeg Boys Senior Choir, sharing seasonal songs in a variety of formats from solos to mass choir. The vocal colour contrasts between the women, the boy sopranos and the young men’s voices created an aural painting comparable to an exquisitely decorated Christmas tree where precisely-placed ornaments capture light and every bough surprises the eye.Delivered from the balcony, the sopranos’ opening quartet of John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music”, accompanied by organist Michael McKay set the tone. From that moment forward, and if I might paraphrase Clement Clark Moore – “not a creature stirred” and you could hear a pin drop! The vocal fireworks in Handel’s “Rejoice” and Mozart’s “Alleluia” sung by Sydney Clarke and Margot Harding respectively were heartily received. Dr. Shannon Unger’s soulful rendition of Max Reger’s “Mariä Wiegenlied” left me wanting more while Donnalynn Grills’ “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was sung with the warmth and sincerity of the season. Move over Il Divo, the women are magnificent. So is collaborative pianist Deena Grier who sensitively supported each singer.For twenty-three years the Little Opera Company, a not-for-profit organization, has been dedicated to the production of operatic entertainment of high quality and broad accessibility. Founder and Artist Director, Spencer Duncanson has provided invaluable local leadership through numerous community contributions, one being in his role as director of the Winnipeg Boys Choir Senior Chorus. No wonder tonight’s program was filled with boys’ voices. Each choir carefully prepared by their directors served up an array of musical desserts, each song more delicious than the next with repertoire spanning from the lullaby “A la Nanita Nana” with violin and piano accompaniment sung by École Sisler Boys Choir, to the Winnipeg’s Boys Choir ethereal sounds of “Walking in the Air” from the film The Snowman. The warm rich tone of the Kelvin Boys Choir was heard in the Randall Thompson’s arrangement of the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Winter’s Evening” while the Winnipeg Boys Choir Senior Chorus kept us on our toes with Chuck Bridwell’s “Various Themes on ‘Fa-La-La’”. Who knew what great classical works could be extrapolated from a falala! To add to the evening, organist Michael McKay led the audience in carol singing while Classic 107’s Ashley Rees performed the duties as host.Assisted by a youthful string quartet made up of violinists Liana Fonseca and Gabriella Nowicki, violist Elly Hooker and cellist Elisheva Schwartz plus two percussionists, Wyatt King and Elishia Ratel, all four choirs and sopranos shared the stage for the finale of “See Amid the Winter’s Snow”, a fitting ending to a heart-warming concert. It was like drinking in your favorite yuletide beverage. Thank you The Little Opera Company and friends for starting the Christmas season off with such joy.