The Vancouver Rainbow Concert Band, the first and only LGBTQ band in Canada, presented its winter holiday show in an East Vancouver community college auditorium in late November. As promised, “December Destinations: The Great Christmas Escape” musically transported the audience to many lands, from Puerto Rico to Brazil to Wales to France to Russia and points beyond. But first the emcee reported that he had become an emcee five hours earlier, and extended a warm welcome with no mention of mobile phones.
Then a special appearance by Bill Monroe (a female impersonator best known for his portrayals of the Queen), who performed “If My Friends Could See Me Now” in spike heels that one does not associate with Her Maj, and who fired off a little joke—I knew a gay trombonist once, and man could he blow—complete with a classic ba-dum—ching! from the one-woman percussion section.
Then the band, nineteen people dressed in black and playing with gusto: a jazzy Christmas medley, “March of the Wraggle Taggle Gypsies,” “Sleigh Ride” (with a great trombone horse whinny at the end), and more. During intermission we had snacks and drinks and pondered the silent auction items: a shampoo/cut/style, a collage entitled Holy Mother of Green Stamps, catered dinner for four at home, half an hour with a Private Santa, a thirty-minute focusing session.
Then back to our seats for a rousing “That’s Life” by Bill Monroe. He announced the name of the 50-50 winner, who flew down the aisle, picked up her prize, ran onstage to fling her arms around a trumpet player and then dashed back to her seat. The band, dressed now in assorted Hawaiian shirts, played the theme from Hawaii Five-O. Halfway through it, the three clarinetists lowered their instruments and worked them as canoe paddles (applause).
Near the end was a weirdly moving consonance/dissonance arrangement by Chris Johnston, Rainbow’s conductor, of “Home for the Holidays” combined with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” All this, and “Santa Baby” as an encore. What more could anyone want, in the first days of the most frantic season of the year?