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Innisfail embraces A Charlie Brown Christmas Concert

New Central Alberta Chamber Orchestra returns to Innisfail for a sold-out holiday season performance

INNISFAIL – With a graceful turn to the audience from the conductor’s podium Dr. James Bicigo smiled and offered a short but heartfelt greeting.

He then turned again towards his assembled cast of musicians.

The show was on.

The Red Deer-based Central Alberta Chamber Orchestra, which was created by Bicigo 15 months ago, was back in Innisfail on Dec. 17 in the Community Room of the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre before a sold-out audience.

The orchestra performed a children’s concert in Innisfail last April.

Bicigo, the orchestra’s artistic director and conductor of the Dec. 17 concert, told the Albertan he was happy to return.

“We received a wonderful, full response from the community,” said Bicigo, a doctor of musical art who teaches at Lacombe’s Burman University. “My wife and I are both from Red Deer and have played in Innisfail many, many times. The orchestra and I have always been welcomed, and we love that.

“And we are really excited we sold it out.”

The  afternoon concert ran for about an hour and a half, including intermission, under the theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was presented with a suite of pieces, such as Christmas Timer is Here, Linus and Lucy, My Little Drum and an audience sing along of Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

The concert also featured classical Christmas music, along with traditional arrangements of Bach’s Magnificant from Magnificant, Waltz of the Flowers from Nutcracker and Salvation Is Created.

There was also what Bicigo described as music from 1970s television specials and “jazzy stuff.

“And then with A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course, it was written by jazz great Vince Guaraldi,” said Bicigo.

The concert featured just over 20 classical musicians; all from Central Alberta, including at least five with strong Innisfail roots, such as flutist Val Sherman, Melody McKnight on oboe, Diana Bushell playing clarinet, Steve Sherman on trumpet and Chris Bushell on percussion. Four vocalists also performed.

“We use local professional musicians,” said Bicigo. “We started it (orchestra) because we wanted to play professional level music with other professional musicians, right here in Central Alberta with our colleagues who live and work right here in Central Alberta.

“We didn't want to be bringing in musicians from Calgary or Edmonton. We didn't want to be chasing off to Calgary or Edmonton to play all the time. We want to play right here,” said Bicigo, whose orchestra rehearses at Red Deer’s St. Luke's Anglican Church and Innisfail High School. “And we have a wealth of talent and professional musicians throughout Central Alberta, and there was not a place for us.

“So we created one.”

Most of all, emphasized Bicigo, he and the members of his orchestra are “serious” about playing well for every concert.

“We are also very serious about providing a really great variety that will attract people from all different walks of life, and with all different musical tastes,” said Bicigo, who also plays the trombone. “You'll hear everything from serious chamber music to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“We can do any kind of music,” he said, adding there are plans in place for an upcoming western-themed concert. “We're happy to bring any kind of music and reach out to our Central Alberta communities.”


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