Four concerts until Boxing Day – Saturday, Dec. 26th

By Dennis Kucherawy

SOUL & PEPPER: Mike Ross, Director of Music for Soulpepper, and jazz/blues singer Jackie Richardson. Seem them on stage as part of A Very Soulpepper Christmas starting December 19. Photo courtesy Soulpepper.

“A soul! A soul! A soul cake!
Please good Missis a soul cake!” – Traditional

Canada’s national jazz/blues singing treasure Jackie Richardson is sprinkling a little “pepper” on our soul cakes for a week of holiday concerts starting this Saturday night.

Fresh from her sensational performance at Koerner Hall’s “Sinatra at 100” last weekend, the beloved entertainer headlines “A Very Soulpepper Christmas,” a week of holiday concerts featuring soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, musical director Mike Ross, the theatre’s artistic director Albert Schultz and the terrific Heavyweights Brass Band among others.

To add to the excitement, the concert will be recorded and will soon be available as a Soulpepper CD.

It’s part of Soulpepper Theatre’s Family Festival that has been running throughout this month. The company is ushering in the Yuletide with plays and a magic show at two locations – the St. Lawrence Centre of the Arts and its home base Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District.

“This is the first `holiday specific’ concert that has been presented as part of Soulpepper’s Concert series,” said Mike Ross, Director of Music and Resident Artist in an email interview. He explained this is a concert for the entire family, full of “stories and music celebrating favorite sounds of the season,” with a “Soulpepper Twist.” That means, he said, these concerts have a unique format. “These are original creations by Soulpepper artists with the support of some of Toronto’s best musicians that always involve a story-telling element, not only music.”

The stories will be the artists’ reminiscences, mostly about their connection to a song they will perform.

Ross said the show will be multi-cultural, reflecting the backgrounds of its “diverse artistic company” and Toronto as well. “There is a global take on several holiday carols, including Suba Sankaran (Sudanese) and Waleed Abdulhamid (from Toronto of South Indian descent).”

Songs performed will include “O Holy Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Coventry Carol,” “À La Nanita,” “Deepest December,” “Last Month of the Year and more.

The company will vary each night between such artists as Jackie Richardson, Patricia O’Callaghan, Sate (Saidah Baba Talibah’s new moniker), Suba Sankaran, Waleed Abdulhamid, Stephanie Cadman, Brenda Wall, Ins Choi, Mike Ross and Albert Schultz.

Also performing will be the popular Heayweights Brass Band that appeared in Soulpepper’s concert last spring “New Orleans: The Big Easy” that also featured Jackie Richardson.

In fact, Jackie was featured in all five of the theatre’s concerts last year, including the exciting, sold-out “The Nina Project,” a tribute to Nina Simone. It also played the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage.

“We had to ask her back for this one,” said Mike Ross. “She’s that fantastic!”

For tickets and more information, visit www.soulpepper.ca and click on performances. Alternatively, call the box office at 416-866-8666.

Save 20 percent off the regular adult price by purchasing four or more tickets to any single performance. A minimum of one ticket must be child or student priced.

All rush tickets are $24, available an hour before a show, subject to availability. Concert ticket prices range from $29.75 to $60.

Soulpepper’s Family Festival

“A Very Soulpepper Christmas” concert is part of the theatre’s Family Festival. Here are other attractions located at two different venues.

Onstage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (Distillery District):

(Now playing until Jan. 3rd)

A Christmas Carol
Alligator Pie
Tricks starring magician David Ben

Onstage at the St. Lawrence Centre (27 Front St. E., just east of the SONY Centre for the Performing Arts):

Kim’s Convenience – Until January 3rd
Parfumerie – Until Dec. 27th

Free for the Family

On Jan. 2nd and 3rd, “Winter Waves” – Free events for the entire family at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Features performances by Soulpepper Resident Artists and special guests. “Explore Soulpepper’s interactive spaces and enjoy a wide range of fun and creative activities and performances including music, theatre, film and more.

Information on Bypassing the Christmas Market Entrance Fee:

Anyone visiting the Young Centre on weekends during the Christmas Market can bypass the lines and the fee by entering via Cherry St – there is a separate lane against the building leading into the lobby. Having a ticket printed helps, but isn’t necessary.
For more information, visit Soulpepper’s website.