Sultans Of String Isabel Bader Theatre Toronto

Sultans of String Christmas Caravan.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

This one had all the high energy and exhilarating music to be expected from the World Music music quintet abetted for the occasion by vocalist Rebecca Campbell. There was motivation to take it all up another notch in the fact the band was premiering their first Christmas album to the hometown folks. So what really happened was an adventurous musical trip around the world, with Christmas as the backdrop, with a passport stamped for 2017 Juno Award-nominated Sultans of String deliver an exuberant performance featuring impressive genre originals, world-music-inspired classics, and seasonal favourites.

From fiery fiddle tunes to a Caribbean sleigh ride, this show had it all, for young, old and midrange too. The classics were represented by this “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring," "The Christmas Song" a “Feliz Navidad” ska party, a Turkish twist on “Greensleeves." The wondrous to watch Cuban percussionist Rosendo Chendy made "Little Drummer Boy" his own, creating overlapping textures with the cajon.

The mood is properly set by the beguiling air of "Turkish Greensleeves", so by the time they get to "Sing For Kwanza," "Himalayan Sleighride" and the edgy "A Django Christmas," the word's out this isn't one of those Christmas shows.

The team spotlights the quirky side of Christmas with "Happy Xmas (War Is Over), "Neil Gow's Lament" and "Jesous Ahatonia (The Huron Carol)" with lyrics based on a direct transliteration of the original Huron-Wendat lyrics, which were written in the 1600s by St Jean de Brebeuf. For the trad fans, McKool and Campbell sounded great dueting on "Hark The Herald Angels" and " Jingle Bells", bringing the vintage phrasings and lacking only the Bing Crosby sweaters.

Sweeping us along with them on their snow-dappled magic carpet, Chris McKhool’s violin plays against Kevin Laliberté’s rumba rhythm guitar, creating rich foundations for bass master Drew Birston, Chendy and guitarist Eddie Paton, that kept the joint jumping With the overlapping of diverse cultural influences and the colourfully garbed, many languaged sold out crowd, Sultans Of String could be imagined as the house band in a Roman dive bar circa 1 B.C. playing a Saturnalia gig. Minus the kids of course.

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Christmas Caravan Sultans of String