Winnipeg’s baroque chamber choir Canzona is gifting a series of holiday performances with a virtual Advent calendar. 

From the Latin for "coming" or "arrival", Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. "Musically speaking, [Advent] is so rich in terms of what composers have written over the centuries for this time of year," said Canzona's Artistic Director Kathleen Allan.

Many may be familiar with the practice of using an Advent calendar to count the days until Christmas. Decorated with depictions of the nativity, winter scenes or other, less traditional images, the numbered days often feature a small door with chocolate hidden behind it. For Allan, it was the childhood excitement of that treat she best remembered. "I can’t say that it was always with the most spiritual intentions, I was pretty focused on opening that little door and getting that chocolate," she said. "It was all I could do to not eat them at once.” 

Perhaps in an effort to reduce the risk of over-indulgence (though is there such a thing when it comes to Baroque music?), Canzona has prepared a virtual, vocal Advent calendar released day-by-day. "We wanted to offer something, a little bit every day, to feel the spirit of Christmas this time of year and have a little treat," explained Allan. 

Shared online, the calendar features clips from a spectacular performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio featuring Canzona along with a fantastic cast of soloists, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra playing on period instruments. "We just cherish this memory of our Christmas Oratorio performance from two years ago, so dearly," said Allan. "We wanted to find a way to bring our audience back to that time when we could have 600 people in Westminster Church enjoying this work all together with 50 musicians packed on stage.” 

Canzona also took inspiration from their beloved disc Stille Nacht, conducted by founder Henry Engbrecht, for the Advent calendar. The German songs and carols were re-recorded by singers individually and then mastered and put together in a "quarantine edition" of some favourites from a disc which Allan noted is "flying off the shelves" this year. 


Written by Simeon Rusnak