Chor Leoni Men’s Choir strips away the hype and spectacle of a traditional musical in favour of a humble celebration of peace, joy, and goodwill towards men with All is Calm.
The year is 1914. World War One has broken out and men of all ages are joining up to defend their country. With words taken from real soldiers’ letters and news headlines of the time, All is Calm covers the optimistic departure through to the harsh realities of war. The show revolves around the 1914 unofficial Christmas truce when the Germans and Allied forces along the front line laid down their arms in honour of Christmas. The show highlights how the men bonded over the shared horror of war and celebrated their desire for home – regardless of which side it lay on.
Actors Peter Hall, Ashley O’Connell, and Gordon Roberts emerge from the choir to speak the words from the letters of young soldiers, adding context to the emotional tapestry woven by the singers. Erick Lichte’s arrangements are subtle as they transition from bawdy soldiers songs to Christmas carols sounding by turns rough and impossibly pure. The songs describe the emotional journey of these young men better than any dialogue and the men of Chor Leoni do a phenomenal job of embodying the troops on both sides of the war.
From a technical staging perspective, the show is static with little visual action other than a flung sack or a brisk walk across the stage. However, the stillness creates a sphere of calm in the midst of our December madness that forces us to focus on what is being said, without distraction and spectacle.
As the final refrain of “Auld Lang Syne” hung in the air, there was a part of me that wished it were a sing-a-long, but a larger part was grateful for the simplicity of the moment.
All is Calm is a show of grace, beauty, and stillness and a reminder the true spirit of Christmas can be found in all of us – no matter the situation, no matter how small.
All is Calm by Peter Rothstein. Direction and arrangements by Erick Lichte. Performed by the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir. No further performances. Visit chorleoni.org for information.