A Christmas twist 

Edmonton's Christmas Carol Project puts a unique musical spin on Dickens's timeless holiday tale


What: Christmas Carol Project

When: Wednesday, Dec. 15 & Thursday, Dec. 16, 8 p.m.

Where: Millennium Place

Cost: $28 adults, $24 students/seniors, $22 WAC members, $12 kids under the age of six

It's a Christmas classic: the Victorian tale of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes an ethical and emotional transformation after a series of supernatural visitations from his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.

In fact, countless versions of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol have been made over the years - the 19 th century novella has been made into cartoons, films, an opera and ballet, a Broadway musical, a BBC mime production starring Marcel Marceau, and a 1947 chamber orchestra composition.

And in 1996, a group of musicians living in Edmonton decided to get in on the action, launching the Christmas Carol Project.

John Armstrong is the mastermind behind what has turned into a beloved annual event in Edmonton. At the outset, Armstrong simply wanted to showcase the diverse talents of Edmonton's local music scene, and thought that A Christmas Carol would be the perfect vehicle.

"There are just so many strong character parts in it. There aren't many other stories that I can think of or that I've come across that have so many character parts that need to be fleshed out, and have so much to say and deliver," Armstrong explained.

"Often, you might have a protagonist and an antagonist and a couple of subsidiary or secondary characters. In this one, you've got Marley and Scrooge and the Cratchit and the three ghosts who all have their different messages that they bring."

The lineup, which features Canadian musicians Bill Bourne, Kevin Cook, Maria Dunn, Tom Roschkov, Terry Morrison, Al Brant, Dale Ladouceur and Bill Hobson, has remained essentially unchanged over the past 14 years.

"Bill Bourne is our Scrooge, and I think one of the first live performances I ever saw was Bill Bourne in the Sidetrack Café almost 30 years ago," Armstrong recalled. "Bill has won a couple of Juno awards and is just an amazing performer. I often say that music just flows through Bill."

Maria Dunn, another Juno-nominated musician, plays the part of Tiny Tim.

"She plays penny whistle and accordion and guitar and sings; she's just an amazing contributor to the project."

But this is just a seasonal production, and the cast members each have busy solo careers, releasing 30 to 40 projects independently.

"We get together in December, sometimes the end of November, and have a wonderful few weeks together, and then everyone goes back to their regular musician lives."

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