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More Christmas concerts and Windy City Opry first anniversary among week’s highlights

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We’re well into the Christmas season in the middle of December, so most of the week is dominated by Christmas related activities.Ryland Moranz plays the first anniversary celebration of the Windy City Opry, Wednesday, Dec. 13. Photo by Richard Amery

 The biggest one is a sold out run of the Nutcracker at the University of Lethbridge with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra.
 But there are several other options for entertainment.

 Shaela Miller’s roots music concert series the Windy City Opry celebrates one year on Wednesday, Dec. 13  at the Slice with some familiar faces.
 Skinny Dyck and the Chicken Catchers, who are featured on an excellent new compilation of Southern Alberta roots and folk musicians. Ryland Moranz will be performing as well and Shaela Miller and her band will also be performing a set to close the night. As always, the show starts early at 8 p.m.. Admission is $10.

 For a complete contrast to that show, faces will be melted and heads will be banged as the Slice hosts a Very metal Christmas featuring local metal/ hard rock bands Tyrants of Chaos, Caste of Shadows and Bring Your Own Bodies., Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.. There is a $10 cover for that show as well. Local classic rock band the Decadent phase play the Slice on Friday, Dec. 15.


Celebrate Christmas with Shakespeare in The Park’s Shakespeare meets Dickens

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The second annual Shakespeare meets Dickens returns to  Casa, Dec. 12.Stephanie Savage is excited to sing with Bryson Brown, pianist Jillian Bracken, Lyle Boswall and Cole Fetting in Shakespeare meets Dickens, taking place at Casa, Dec. 12.. Photo by Richard Amery
“ It’s our second annual fundraiser for the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society,” said Shakespeare in the Park president Kate Connolly, noting this coming summer’s production of  the Tempest, directed by DJ Gellatly, will be the local Shakespeare  group’s seventh summer production in Galt Gardens.

“Shakespeare Meets Dickens was extremely successful last year, so we’re doing it for a second time,” Connolly said.

“It’s a combinations of Victorian era Shakespeare poems and Christmas pieces under the direction of our fabulous music director and pianist Jillian Bracken,” she enthused.
“ The first half of the of the evening is a reader’s theatre  of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol created by Richard Epp, a retired professor of the U of L theatre department,” she continued, noted there will be several familiar faces on stage including ShCole Fetting bones up on his Shakespeare with pianist Jillian Bracken during rehearsals for Shakespeare meets Dickens, taking place at Casa, Dec. 12.. Photo by Richard Ameryakespeare in the Park actors and directors,  and actors and board members of Playgoers of Lethbridge and Hatrix Theatre, plus university of Lethbridge students.

Some familiar faces include Cole Fetting, who was in this summer‘s production of A Comedy of Errors, Chris Peterson who was in last summer’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Shelly David, who was on stage with Hatrix Theatre’s  12 Angry Jurors as well as Playgoers of Lethbridge’s “Savannah Sipping Society,” Lyle Boswall who was in Hatrix’s  production of  “Spamalot”, Bryson Brown and many more.
“The second half will be Shakespeare songs and songs from Shakespeare inspired musicals like ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate.There will also be six or seven well known Christmas carols,” Connolly continued, adding there will also be Victorian and Tudor era inspired food and drink.

“The food and drink is free and Victorian and Tudor in flavour, so there will be Victorian sandwiches and shortbreads and mince pies. And we have a liquor license, so we will be selling wine and local beer,” she said.
Rita Peterson is a familiar face behind the scenes and on stage with Playgoers of Lethbridge.

 She is excited tobe part of her first Shakespeare Meets Dickens performance.
“Kate asked me to be part of it and I love working with her, so I said yes,” Peterson said.


Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra excited about sold out run of Christmas classic the Nutcracker

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The Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra is pleased to present a sold out  production of Christmas favourite the Nutcracker at University Theatre, Dec. 15-17.

The Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra’s production of the Nutcracker is sold out this weekend. Photo submitted
“The Lethbridge Symphony has never done this before. It’s been on our radar for  a long time, but  we had to wait for the stars to be fully aligned to do it,” said Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Melanie Gattiker.

“We didn’t want to compete with other productions. But the Alberta Ballet isn’t doing it this year and the Russians aren’t coming this year either,” she said.

 The fully staged production features 2015 performers including 89 local ballet dancers, 56 singers and children’s choirs plus the 60 Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra members.

“ Not many people do the Nutcracker with a full orchestra. Usually it’s just with canned music,” she continued, adding the orchestra is front and centre  for the production, thanks to being able to do it at the University Theatre.

“We couldn’t do it anywhere else other than the university theatre, not even the Yates. They can bring the orchestra pit front and centre by removing the first two rows of seats,” she said.

She wasn’t surprised the run sold out by Dec. 1.
“A lot of people think ‘Ooh Christmas— the Nutcracker.’ And if any of performers have any fans,  family or friends at all, and with word of mouth, it would have sold out,” she said, noting they even inquired about adding extra dates.

“ We tried, but the theatre is booked,” she said, noting the production features performers from 5 to 75 including young dancers and more senior Orchestra members.
“ Even for me, it‘s going to be experience. I only get to see dress rehearsals because I’ll be working the show,” she said.


Joey Onley makes his own way as an outlaw country punk

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B.C outlaw country musician  Joey Onley returns to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Dec. 15 with tour mate Adam Farnsworth.
He has been busy dealing with a variety of life events including  divorce and getting attacked in the midst of the new tour.

Joey Onley returns to Lethbridge, Dec. 15. Photo by Richard Amery
“I got the frickin snot beat out of me last week by three criminals in Barriere BC, two of which are still in jail,” Onley described in an e-mail from a tour stop in Kelowna.
“ I took it pretty bad too.  My face looks like WW3 hit it still (my) eyeball is full of blood, black eye, swollen face.  I have played 2000 shows in Canada, that's only the second time something like this has gone down, so I take it with stride.  You spend 20 years entertaining drunk hillbillies, you just have to expect that eventually something was gonna happen. I don't like it, but I am tough enough. The show must go on,” he continued.

It’s kind of true to the outlaw life though. He is pleased to be able to make his own niche, refusing to identify with mainstream country.
“I started playing punk rock country before many people were doing it.  For a long time it didn't make sense to people and I wondered if I could ever make my name doing this. I hate the pop country. It's made by millionaires in a city somewhere.  I live in the mountains, I have been an underground miner, a cowboy and any other things. So for me country music is about the land and it's people. I write about what I know. I think my whole goal was to destroy Nashville. Let's be honest, I don't fit in with that industry. I wouldn't even enjoy talking to those people much, we don't have much in common. I have never been on a label until now, never wrote a grant, never wrote an application, never kissed a corporate ass. I have made my name slogging it out in the small towns. I try to remember peoples names and stories. I am a northern folk singer and that's who my audience is. It seems that there a resurgence in country music.  More and more people are coming back to it and more and more of them are liking the more traditional idea of what country music should be. It should be COUNTRY music, we don't need session players who used to be in Poison on my records,” he noted.

 Careerwise, things have been relatively quiet since his last visit to Lethbridge with Bobby Dove in July.
“Things have been quiet since the summer for me because of personal life problems related to divorce and children.  It's just now that I am getting back out and getting to work. And I am really glad, I enjoyed the show at the Owl so much last time with Bobby Dove. But the best part meeting the staff and hanging with George Arsene and Shaela Miller and company afterward.  Sometimes that's the best part of the job,” he wrote from a tour stop in Kelowna, where he is supporting the new vinyl reissue of his 2016 record “No More Trouble in Peace.”


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