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Here & Now: Pop Carols

Photo courtesy Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Photo courtesy Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Dec 9-10

A musical icon takes the stage for A Jann Arden Christmas. The Canadian diva takes on traditional holiday songs with her signature warm, soulful style and charming stage presence. Hear timeless tunes like Rocking Around The Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, and It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, accompanied by the renowned Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main St, 204-949‑3999, wso.ca

Here & Now: Her Highness

Image courtesy Royal MTC

Image courtesy Royal MTC

Nov 24-Dec 17

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre gets the royal treatment with The Audience. This co-production with Toronto theatre company Mirvish Productions depicts the life of Queen Elizabeth II over more than 60 years, through the monarch’s weekly private audience with the Prime Minister. Written by The Queen’s Peter Morgan and originally performed with Dame Helen Mirren in the starring role, the play is a rich and clever look at British history. John Hirsch Mainstage, 174 Market Ave, 204‑942‑6537, mtc.mb.ca

Here & Now: Stress-Free Shopping

Bo by Mansouri wooden bow tie courtesy of Signatures Craft Show & Sale

Bo by Mansouri wooden bow tie courtesy of Signatures Craft Show & Sale

Nov 24-27

The RBC Convention Centre is transformed into a marketplace for handmade and artisan goods at the Signatures Craft Show. Check off every name on the gift list while browsing the work of more than 150 different artists, artisans, and designers from all across Canada. Check out local favourites like Coal and Canary Candles, The Canadian Birch Company, and Piccola Cucina. RBC Convention Centre, 375 York Ave, 613‑241‑5777 or 1‑888‑773‑4444, signatureswinnipeg.ca

Here & Now: Farcical Folly

Todd Thomas as Falstaff, Opera Columbus 2012, photo by Joe McCulty

Todd Thomas as Falstaff, Opera Columbus 2012, photo by Joe McCulty

Nov 19-25

Catch Manitoba Opera’s performance of one of Verdi’s late masterpieces. Falstaff tells the tale of an aged playboy knight who sends identical love letters to two married women, in the hopes of securing their husbands’ fortunes for himself. Sung in Italian with English translation, this comic opera turns cases of mistaken identity, disguises, pranks, plots, and counter-plots into a rollicking show. Tickets at manitobaopera.mb.ca. Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main St, 204‑942‑7479

Here & Now: Festival of Culture

Photo courtesy Rady JCC

Photo courtesy Rady JCC

Nov 12-20

Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture returns to celebrate the best of Jewish writing, film, art, and more through a variety of events. This year’s line up includes performances by Jewish-Cuban jazz fusion group Odessa/Havana: Roots, Blood, Sweat, and Tears member Steve Katz, and Israeli superstar David Broza (pictured). Also catch debates and speeches from prominent Jewish thinkers and stop and shop at the Jewish book fair sale. Rady JCC, 123 Doncaster St, 204‑477‑7510, radyjcc.com

Here & Now: Lots of Lights

Photo courtesy of Canad Inns Winter Wonderland

Photo courtesy of Canad Inns Winter Wonderland

Various Dates

As winter days get shorter, nights become brighter, lit by the dazzling displays of holiday lights that earned Winnipeg the title of Christmas Capital of Canada. Take a trip through time at the Manitoba Electrical Museum (Nov 14-Dec 29, hydromb.ca). See more than 1 million bulbs lighting up the night at Canad Inns Winter Wonderland drive through lights show (Dec 2-Jan 6, canadinns.com). Keep cozy while catching the sights aboard a heated coach on the Christmas Lights Sightseeing Tour (Dec 14, 20, heartlandtravel.ca). 

Winnipeg’s Drummer Boy

Sean Quigley has turned his viral internet success into an opportunity to change the world and explore his passion, one song at a time.

Photo courtesy Sean Quigley

Photo courtesy Sean Quigley

By Joelle Kidd

When asked, “why The Little Drummer Boy?”, a grin creeps over Sean Quigley’s face.

“Do you want the cheesy answer—or the real answer?”

The question, of course, refers to Quigley’s video of the same name, which as racked up almost 3.3 million views to date on YouTube. In it, the then 16-year-old, clad in shorts, a toque, and Hudson’s Bay Canada mittens, carries a drum through snowcapped scenes of a Winnipeg winter while an updated version of the carol—complete with buzzy guitar and a drum solo—plays. The video has resonated with a huge number of people, winning internet fame, and has had long lasting impact on many fans.

At the time, Quigley had not the faintest idea that his project would be so successful. “To be honest, I chose the song because of the Boney M Christmas album,” he says. “I just wanted to put my own spin on it.”

Armed with nothing but a borrowed video camera and a school computer covertly loaned by one of his High School teachers, the teenager set out to make a music video. The original plan was to shoot indoors, which turned up too dark on camera. Then, the morning of the planned shoot, Sean awoke to a dazzling snowfall. “I just knew, we can’t miss this,” he says. He and his sister formed a makeshift film crew, loading his drums into the back of her car and driving to his favourite spots around the city.

“I think people relate to its authenticity,” he says. The video was made on a whim, with DIY spirit, at next to no cost, by a young musician. For Quigley, the video’s story is one of searching and finding—a version of his own personal journey. “At the time, I felt like I didn’t have anything to offer the world except music,” he remembers. At the end of the video, the lone drummer stands, overlooking the city, playing his snare drum, his voice finally heard.

In the five years since The Little Drummer Boy was originally posted, Quigley has come a long way. The burst of success that followed his viral video sensation originally took him to Los Angeles, where he ended up on the edge of a quarter million dollar record contract.

But this record deal required compromising the authenticity that had won him fans in the first place. “I couldn’t do it—it didn’t feel right,” he says. “So I walked away.”

Quigley has never regretted turning down the offer. Instead, he has found purpose and the freedom to express himself here in his hometown of Winnipeg.

Online success opened the door to promoting charitable organizations. In one instance, he was offered a partnership deal with Hudsons Bay Company, after they saw the iconic Canada mittens featured in the Little Drummer Boy video. Like the rest of the video shoot, the mittens were chosen for practical reasons—Sean’s hands were cold and he grabbed some mitts out of the car. But he used his newfound clout to collect mittens for Winnipeg’s homeless, and held a special concert with proceeds going to local shelter Siloam Mission.

He has also worked with World Vision, and while travelling with the organization met fellow Winnipegger Karli Gerbrandt, who was working at a non-profit in Cambodia. The two musicians and world travellers reconnected when they returned home to Winnipeg, got married, and began playing music together.

Under the name Bold As Lions, the duo released a full studio album in 2014 called The Hope Movement, a collection of crisp harmonies, earworm hooks, and poignant lyrics. Another album is in the works to be released this year.

For this couple-turned-band, roots in this city go deep. “There’s something special about Winnipeg,” Sean says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world, but I never feel there’s anything I can’t do right here.”

Find concert schedule and music online at boldaslions.ca.

See the video that started it all:

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Hot Art: Shifting Perspective

Photo by Leah Snyder Courtesy Plug in ICA

Ode To Miss Eagle Testickle by Ursula Johnson (photo by Leah Snyder)

To Jan 1

Group exhibition Superimposition: Sculpture and Image at Plug In ICA features artists Nadia Belerique, Valerie Blass, Ursula Johnson, Kelly Lycan, Ursula Mayer, Kristin Nelson, Dominique Rey and Andrea Roberts. The exhibit includes a variety of mixed media pieces exploring superimposition—a technique usually unique to image—in three dimensional space. The collection, which draws inspiration from fashion, film, architecture, and performance, incorporates bright colours, text and texture to create sculptural works that play with the conventions of graphic design. Unit 1-460 Portage Ave, 204‑942‑1043, plugin.org

Top 5 Restaurants with Live Music

Photo courtesy Prairie Ink Restaurant

Photo courtesy Prairie Ink Restaurant

Dining is not just about taste; get the other senses involved at these restaurants, which offer live music in harmony with mouth-watering flavour.

Prairie Ink Restaurant (pictured), inside McNally Robinson Booksellers, hosts sweet music every Friday and Saturday night. Acoustic crooners and jazz trios are the backdrop to healthful eats like kicky curried spaghetti squash. Reservations preferred. 1120 Grant Ave, 204‑975‑2659, mcnallyrobinson.com/restaurant

Hip venue The Good Will slings java during the day and sates late night cravings with slices from Little Pizza Heaven. Indie rock, jazz, and hip hop artists usually take the stage. 625 Portage Ave, 204-221-1577, thegoodwill.ca

Excellent pub grub, like indulgent pulled pork poutine, makes Le Garage the place to lounge. Consistent live shows range from local legends to open mics. 166 Provencher Blvd, 204‑237‑0737, garagecafe.ca

Expert musicians tickle the ivories at swanky Palm Lounge inside the Fort Garry Hotel while the kitchen plays with on seasonal, scratch-made fare. Jazz and classical piano is de-rigeur, often with a talented vocalist joining in. 222 Broadway, 204‑942‑8251, fortgarryhotel.com/dining

Winnipeg’s stellar jazz scene can be found at Nicolino’s every week at the Wednesday Night Hang. Budding musicians and seasoned pros share the stage, while diners sample rustic Italian cuisine. 2077 Pembina Hwy, 204‑269‑5004, nicolinosrestaurant.com

Here & Now: Yuk It Up!

Chris Cubas courtesy Oddblock Comedy Festival

Chris Cubas courtesy Oddblock Comedy Festival

AUG 25-28

Oddblock Comedy Festival, a block party styled fest on South Osborne, has the street bustling. Venue-hopping comedians and attendees can grab a bite from nearby restaurants and food trucks or relax on streetside beer gardens. Check out more than 50 comics including podcast favourite Chris Cubas, improvisor Kate Berlant, and experimental comedian Ian Abramson. Various venues, 204‑478‑7275, oddblock.ca

Here & Now: Hear Here

Photo courtesy Interstellar Rodeo

Photo courtesy Interstellar Rodeo

AUG 12-14

After enjoying a successful inaugural fest last summer, Interstellar Rodeo returns with out-of-this-world artists. Big name roots, Americana and indie acts take the stage at this music festival in the centre of the city, where gourmet food and wine pairings go hand in hand with the music. Headliners  include Wilco and newly-formed supergroup Case/Lang/Viers, made up of Neko Case, K.D. Lang and Laura Viers. Weekend passes and single day tickets available. The Forks, 1‑855‑465‑2459, interstellarrodeo.com

Here & Now: Film Fun

Photo courtesy Downtown Winnipeg BIZ

Photo courtesy Downtown Winnipeg BIZ

AUG 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30

Relive the golden days of drive-in theatres this summer. On Saturdays, a converted parking lot becomes a Downtown Drive-In showing Superhero flicks. Screen gems of years gone by are shown outdoors every Tuesday during Movies on Memorial. See Oscar-winning classics projected on an inflatable outdoor screen in Memorial Park. Free. Movies start at sundown (approx 9 pm). Call 204‑958‑4640 or visit downtownwinnipegbiz.com for details.