Making Christmas bright... 

Whistler's music makers bring carols, jazz and more

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE FOR THE BEARFOOT BISTRO - Christmas on stage Cameron Chu (right) behind his piano at the Bearfoot Bistro with owner André St. Jacques. Many musicians will supply seasonal joy this year.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde for the Bearfoot Bistro
  • Christmas on stage Cameron Chu (right) behind his piano at the Bearfoot Bistro with owner André St. Jacques. Many musicians will supply seasonal joy this year.

Spare a moment for the Christmas crooners, the singers and performers who will grace stages around Whistler by the dozen this season.

They'll be in the resort's pubs, clubs and restaurants, performing everything from classical, jazz, folk and pop, to DJing sets that get you moving.

Pique talked to three who have for years spent this most special of family days bestowing their music on others.

Jon Shrier's extended family

"Christmas is very important," says Whistler singer-songwriter Jon Shrier, who is resting up for it.

Shrier is booked for the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a place he has performed many times.

"I've never not worked the day. Even when I was a waiter it was an opportunity to make good money, and my family's not here. The whole time that I am working I have my family in mind. What I try to do is escape before the holidays, like last year when I saw my mother for her 70th," he says.

Having performed over many Christmases, Shrier has been able to see what being in a resort at this time of year means to a lot of people.

"Everyone just looks like a family fireplace to me. I try to get close to it. For instance, there was one year... I see these families over and over again from year to year. I get to see kids growing up and it's one of my greatest pleasures, playing at the Fairmont," he says."I miss my family and I'm like a mama's boy times 10... as long as I'm out there, and I make a point of being out there for Christmas and New Year's, it's nice to see kids singing along and being with their families. You end up feeling as if they're your family, too."

Cameron Chu's piano forte

The Bearfoot Bistro's piano man Cameron Chu will be behind the keys on Friday, playing a bluesy set just as he has for almost 20 Christmases.

"I perform every day," he says.

"You have to look at what the overall concept of the room is. I play a sophisticated room in a sophisticated venue. The music is an attempt to be a part of that as well," Chu says.

"I tend to avoid the typical piano bar stuff, the Elton John, the Billy Joel. I usually take standard tunes and embellish them in such a way that it lends itself to the atmosphere."

He enjoys playing R&B and gospel-oriented jazz.

"I get to throw that in a little. I try to throw in original compositions by Oscar Peterson because he is Canadian. On Canada Day, I will play through the entire Canadiana Suite," Chu says.

This time of year, there will be carols and swinging music, he says.

What is it like to chase the music muse and leave the turkey behind on Christmas Day?

"I'm used to working when everyone else is having time off. It comes with the territory. I don't think I've spent Christmas with the family for 35 years," Chu says.

Chu will start his day just after 6 p.m. on Christmas Day."And I'll play until everybody's gone," he says.

Kostaman's Big Family Jam

Jono Young, the manager at the Crystal Lounge, approached Whistler's reggae epicentre, Kostaman, with a proposal for putting together a seasonal version of his weekly jam nights.

Kostaman says he is hosting the Big Family Jam as much for the musicians themselves as for the audience who may need a place to go on Dec. 25. The show starts at 9 p.m.

"Our family is our musicians. We want to gather our family for the holidays," Kostaman says.

The jam night actually starts the night before, Christmas Eve, with the set-up kept for the next day.

Kostaman has played many a Christmas Day. One memorable night he found himself on stage alongside a very famous guest."One Christmas Day, Queen Latifah came into the Crystal. The place was empty, she sat up front, I gave her a mic, and we jammed all night," he recalls.

"It was five-six years ago. I was jamming and she was rapping. I was singing and she was amazing. So good. She was drinking and hanging out, very low key."This year, who knows who will turn up? Kostaman says that the audience can expect the jam community to follow the singer's lead.

"If I'm singing, chances are it will be funk, soul or blues. Another person will sing Americana, rock and another classic blues," he says.

"It's a revolving door. On a normal jam night we have 10 people, and it's not uncommon for all 10 to be on stage playing."



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