On December 3rd, Vancouver will be host to the first street-carolling competition with the aim of raising $20,000 for a hospice in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With over 20 choirs showcasing a wide selection of choreographed routines and holiday cheer, it is no surprise that they have dubbed this event ‘Yule Duel’.
In order to sweeten the pot, a remarkable cast of six celebrity judges have been chosen for the competition including Mike Forrester, Executive Director of the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society; Mike Janyk, a three-time Olympic skier; and Brittany Baxter who made her second consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games and is a three-time FIFA Women’s World Cup team member. While three mystery judges are yet to be announced, Vancouver Weekly is pleased to announce that Christopher Gaze, known for his role as founding artistic director of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, has been confirmed as the fourth judge for the competition. Vancouver Weekly spoke to Gaze about his passionate love of carolling and what we might expect at Yule Duel this year.
Vancouver Weekly: Tell me about what we should expect at Yule Duel?
Christopher Gaze: I think everyone should be ready to be entertained. There’s going to be about 20 or more choirs in Gastown on various stages and people will be able to wander around and listen to these choirs – all kinds of different groups that will get together and contribute their selections for all who may want to come and enjoy it. It’s pretty spectacular. Water Street will transform with these stages. It’s a fun idea called Yule Duel and all to raise money for a hospice called May’s Place on the Downtown Eastside. It’s an enchanting idea at Christmas time and all moneys raised will go to people who can no longer help themselves.
VW: Did you have memories of carolling as a boy?
Gaze: When I lived in England as a boy, my mother would get my sister, myself, and other children from our little village and we would go carolling and raise money for the orphan home. That’s certainly been a path in my life imbued in me by my mother. I was a fortunate child with all the opportunity to have a fulfilled life and fortunately, I never abused that privilege either in ownership of that or in the fact that I had the capacity to perhaps do what I can to make others journey a bit better.
VW: Do you have any favourite Christmas carols of your own?
Gaze: There’s a version of ‘In the bleak midwinter’ we’ve done many times with the Vancouver Symphony. It’s a Tovey arrangement, which I find deeply moving. That, in fact, is orchestral but I like to sing it as well as a carol.
I go to the service at Christ Church Cathedral at four o’clock on Christmas Eve. The Salvation Army plays and the whole church is absolutely packed. They even set up a TV downstairs in their community room because it overflows completely. They sometimes play ‘Away in a Manger’ and I love the old English version they play like the one I grew up with and am very fond of. ‘Silent Night’ is so exquisite and ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’, ‘Good King Wenceslas’ – I mean, how fun is that to sing. I know a lot of carols and just love singing them. It’s a communal song not a national anthem – It’s beautiful, thoughtful and filled with the lovingness of Christmas.
VW: What types of things are you going to be looking for in the performances at Yule Duel?
Gaze: I think the focus of the singers – the completeness of their rehearsal. One should see a performance that is not just for themselves, a performance that engages an audience – otherwise it is a private affair. If there are harmonies, I shall be listening carefully. Carolling is me and I know what I like… but having said that, I shall allow myself to be surprised. I expect that there will be groups that will sing carols in different ways and I shall strive to remain open and put aside the traditional me. I’m looking for the complete package of the joy of carol singing.
Visit YuelDuel.com to find out more about this years competition.