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Busy season for White Rock City Orchestra maestra DeWit

Volare Tenors, Messiah In The Valley performances on horizon
The Volare Tenors will join forces with the White Rock City Orchestra on Dec. 3 at White Rock Baptist Church. Contributed photo

It shapes up as a busy Christmas season for White Rock City Orchestra director Paula DeWit.

The WRCO’s resident maestra is preparing a special Christmas-themed concert with dynamic ‘popera’ trio, The Volare Tenors, for the orchestra (Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. White Rock Baptist Church, 1657 140 St., Surrey).

The Edmonton-based professional tenor trio (Kaden Forsberg, Laren Steppler and Taylor Fawcett) – who received a boost last year from appearances on Canada’s Got Talent – have commissioned special orchestral arrangements of their Christmas repertoire to support their upcoming tour of Alberta and B.C.

The material should be a good fit for the post-COVID re-constituted, increasingly professional sound of the WRCO, (as highlighted in last year’s video, The Christmas Song, featuring guest violin-piano duo Roy and Rosemary).

But DeWit won’t have any chance to rest on laurels for a while after that.

Also in December, she’ll be switching hats for her long-time gig as director of the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for a three-performance tour of Messiah In The Valley – including her Belle Voci choir and guest soloists – which includes a Surrey stop (Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m., Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church, 9165 160 St.).

Highlighted in the performances will be another well-known face: Semiahmoo Peninsula-raised soprano soloist Colleen Donnelly, who will be joined by countertenor Shane Hanson, tenor Johny Michel and bass-baritone David Rosborough in Handel’s oratorio masterwork.

Other venues for Messiah In The Valley will be St. James Catholic Church, Abbotsford (Dec. 9) and Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver (Dec. 10).

DeWit said the White Rock concert with the Volare Tenors came together very naturally – she’d worked with Fawcett before when he was one of the guest soloists for her Messiah concert in 2018.

“I’d been in contact with him and mentioned that it would be wonderful to have the tenors with the orchestra. We approached them and they were very enthusiastic.”

She’s also excited about the new arrangements, which she said are mostly Christmas-themed.

“With the three-part vocal harmonies they’re going to be quite lush,” she said, adding that the repertoire includes everything from traditional favourites such as O Holy Night, Panis Angelicus, The First Noel, Carol of the Bells, Nella Fantasia and Ave Maria to Joni Mitchell’s River.

The WRCO will contribute two instrumental performances – Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, and, venturing into the less-familiar, a suite of Hannukah songs.

The Messiah In The Valley may also be an entirely different experience than many Christmas time concert-goers are familiar with, DeWit said – returning it more to the musical context of Handel’s original 1742 performance in Dublin.

“Belle Voci loves the Baroque repertoire and this concert will have a definite Baroque feel,” she said. “Over the last 10 years, I’ve had my eyes opened to it, and I discovered I love it.”

The symphony’s Baroque ensemble will be playing period-authentic instruments – including trumpets and oboes – and using Baroque pitch rather than the orchestral tuning standardized in the 19th century.

Rather than familiar legato vocal phrasing, and heavy instrumentation, the performance will emphasize clarity and articulation to bring out the text, DeWit said – in keeping with Handel’s original intent; to create an inspiring and triumphal oratorio based on Biblical passages outlining the Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

“It will be a version that many might not have heard before, with a much lighter sound – something that might even make people smile,” she said.

For tickets to the White Rock City Orchestra-Volare Tenors Christmas Concert ($25 adults, $20 seniors, $10 for children), visit

For tickets to the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus-Belle Voci Messiah In The Valley visit

Paula DeWit conducts Belle Voci and the Chilliwack Symphony Baroque Ensemble in a Messiah In The Valley performance in 2021. (Contributed photo)

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