Dave Trafford, left, is preparing his band Midnight Choir for a one-night only performance on Nov. 28 at St. Michael’s College School Photo courtesy of Dave Trafford

‘The Promise’ brings new sound to Advent season

By  Robert Adragna, Youth Speak News
  • November 20, 2015

TORONTO On Nov. 28 at St. Michael’s College School, Dreamtheatre Productions will be performing its inaugural presentation of The Promise — a retelling of the timeless Advent story in a contemporary fashion.

With an ensemble of guitars, drums and electric basses along with a choir of more than 14 voices, the production pledges to “open your ears, eyes and hearts to a whole new sound of the season.”

The Promise is above all else a concert, featuring more than 20 pieces of original music composed and produced by Dave Trafford over his 15 years as director of the St. Bonaventure Youth Parish Choir.

Trafford said the music is designed take us on an impactful journey through the story of Advent. Each piece elaborates on the emotions which underlie the Advent story, from the courageous faith of Mary during the Annunciation all the way to the prophetic majesty of the Epiphany.

“God became man in Bethlehem, that was the awesome wonder of that moment. How can you bring that down to something that’s not awe inspiring?” said Trafford.

Advent is a time when we are collectively waiting to receive the ultimate gift of the season, that of Jesus Christ. We cannot just await His presence complacently. Trafford believes that the most important element of Advent is its call for personal reflection and preparation.

“Advent capsulizes the need to pay attention to who we are and what we are and what we do and why we do it,” said Trafford.

Even though The Promise discusses the traditional themes and events that constitute the Advent story, it by no means does so in a conventional way. Rather, it best resembles a contemporary music festival.

Trafford said the musical stylings in the production “range from rumbling rock pieces to soaring anthems and include Celtic folk-based ballads mixed with jazz-styled arrangements of traditional carols.” There are intense guitar solos, relaxed drum sequences and energetic choir vocals.

“The musical differences in the way they’re expressed is almost like a different language,” said Trafford. “The audience may hear the same phrase three or four times during the show, but in a different musical context it puts a different meaning to it.”

In between these musical selections are a series of poetic interludes. They allow the audience to reflect on the emotional roller-coaster that is the Advent story. In addition, they challenge us to, throughout the Christmas season, keep near to our hearts the true meaning, purpose and joy that can only come when we actually celebrate the birth of Christ — a difficult task in the secular and commercial hustle and bustle of Christmas culture in Western society.

“It’s not to take the holly and the jolly out of Christmas… to tell people ‘bad’ because you used your credit card and focused on the material gift,” he said. “There’s great joy and celebration that goes on during (Christmas), real goodwill, and I don’t want to take that away from people.”

Instead, The Promise is calling us to focus our attention on the fundamental source of the joy that we experience during the Christmas season. This source is the birth of Jesus Christ — the promise that God would send His Son to lead us to salvation. When we recognize the joy inherent in His presence, the commercialism of the season along with all of its associated mascots of Rudolph and Frosty and Santa take on a new, fundamental meaning. They become individual lamps lit by the flame of eternal happiness in Christ. We can contextualize culture and merge it with religious tradition to make Advent a collective celebration of happiness, goodwill and love.

“We’re hoping that what this does is put the gifts in a new context, so that tie you’re going to buy your grandfather means something more than what it would have,” Trafford said. “We want to remind people that this is a whole season of giving.”

(Adragna, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Bishop Allen Academy in Toronto.)

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