“All Is Calm” Brings “The War to End All Wars” to Poignant Immediacy

The Men of “All Is Calm”

ALL IS CALM
The Christmas Truce of 1914
by Peter Rothstein
with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte & Timothy C. Takach
Bodhi Tree Concerts
The Men of Sacra/Profana, San Diego Opera, and FAB United
Jacob Bruce: Stage director
Juan Carlos Acosta: Conductor

Proceeds from All Is Calm will be donated to The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park

Preview by David Gregson

Fresh Christmas wreaths are already for sale at Trader Joe’s whilst merry Muzak carols are echoing throughout some local corporate pharmacies — but will those pine wreaths still be fresh on December 25th? And how much Christmas cheer can a person reasonably tolerate?

Many people I know are complaining about all the current yuletide hype when we have yet to reckon with the Thanksgiving turkey. But Bodhi Tree Concerts can be forgiven for its too-early wassailing for several reasons. First, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, treats an historical happening which is perennially fascinating. And the show is also relevant around the time of Veterans Day. But chiefly, it’s very good.

Because I was unable to attend the public performances this weekend, I was invited to a dress rehearsal Wednesday night in the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, a building that once served as the chapel of the Naval Hospital on Inspiration Point. Normally a dress rehearsal is not reviewed by the press or in online blog, so I offer only some “preview” remarks. Rather enthusiastic ones, to be sure.

All Is Calm is a deftly assembled collection of Christmas musical selections and of first-hand accounts from the men who fought and died in the Belgian killing fields of World War I. Though it is difficult to fathom thoroughly, the Christmas spirit so moved German and British troops that they emerged from their trenches to play soccer, sing carols, exchange photographs, and do all sorts of incongruously kind and loving things during a lull in the bloodshed. They sang “Auld Lang Syne” as they buried the dead, traded rum, chocolate and cigars — and then went on for another four years of mud, blood, lice, sickness and slaughter.

In All Is Calm they also sing “It’s a Long Long Way to  Tipperary,” “Will You Go to Flanders? and  “Silent Night” in both German and English. We even hear from a French opera singer in a moving rendition of “Cantique de Noël” sung by tenor Timmy Simpson. As a whole, the show is rewarding musically in that it takes many overly familiar tunes and makes them fresh and compelling. On the other hand, a great deal is not that familiar. All of the songs sung in this show are listed at the very bottom of this page.

Camaraderie, pain, regret, and joy: the rich, sonorous voices of the men of Sacra/Profana bring “the war to end all wars” to poignant immediacy. Six featured soldier/singers perform the main action — the readings of the documents, each with its tagline ID. Ten more singers stand in the background, all dressed in black, each man wearing a red memorial poppy.  All is a cappella under the direction of Juan Carlos Acosta.

Despite the uncomfortable folding chairs, it’s probably impossible to improve upon the Veterans Museum venue. The old chapel adapts well and the acoustics seem fine. The collection of memorabilia is superbly displayed and worth examining with or without a wonderful concert such as this one to attend.

For music, drama and dance critics, the holidays can be wearying with the same old stuff over and over. Pulitzer Prize winning critic Martin Bernheimer once wrote, “Another ‘Nutcracker’! Ah, well. It’s dirty work but somebody has to do it.” All Is Calm is not only a deeply moving and musically satisfying show, but it’s a wonderful relief from the same ol’, same ol’.

Jonathan Nussman (front) and Timmy Simpson in the back

FEATURING: Alvin Almazan, Walter DuMelle, Jack French, Timmy Simpson, Michael Sokol, Christopher J. Stephens.

And the Men of SACRA/PROFANA: Colin Barkley, R. Aaron Bullard, Adam Davis, Brad Fox, Jonathan Gonzales, Kenneth Martin, Nicholas Root, Mitch Rosenthal, Kurt Wong, Paul Young, Jr.

Musical Direction: Juan Carlos Acosta
Stage Direction: Jacob Bruce
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Stephanie Lee
Lighting Design: Elvira Delgado
Dialect Coach: Vanessa Dinning
Assistant Conductor: Lara Kornycheck
Bugle: Clayton Becker

TICKETS

Friday, November 17 – 7pm
Saturday, November 18 – 2pm & 7pm
Sunday, November 19 – 5pm

The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
2115 Park Boulevard, San Diego, Ca

Walter DuMelle (left), Michael Sokol (center), and Jonathan Nussman (right)

THE SONGS

PROLOGUE: “Will Ye Go to Flanders?”. Scottish Traditional

PART I: THE OPTIMISTIC DEPARTURE: “Come on and Join”. Music: Irving Berlin, (Alexander’s Ragtime Band). “God Save the King”. English Traditional

PART II: THE GRIM REALITY: “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. Jack Judge & Harry Williams. “Les Godillots”. Paul Briollet & Eugene Rimbault. “Pack up your Troubles in your old Kit Bag.” George Henry & Felix Powell. “The Old Barbed Wire”. English Traditional. “I Want to Go Home.” Lieut. Gitz Rice. “Deutschlandlied”. Franz Joseph Haydn.  “Keep the Homefires Burning”. Ivor Novello. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” 12th Century Chant.

PART III: CHRISTMAS : “Christmas in the Camp”. Harrington and Scott. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” English Traditional. “Die Wacht Am Rhein.” Karl Wilhelm. “Christmas Day in the Cookhouse”. English Traditional. “O Tannenbaum.” German Traditional.

PART IV: THE TRUCE. “Silent Night”. Franz Gruber. “Angels We Have Heard on High.” French Traditional. “Er is een kindeke geboren op aard.” Dutch Traditional. “Bring a Torch Jeannette Isabella.” French Traditional. “The First Noel.” English Traditional. “Ihr Kinderlein kommet.” Johann A.B. Schulz. “In Dulci Jubilo.” German Traditional. “Wassail Erick Lichte.” Based on Traditional English Texts. “Minuit chrétiens.” Adolph Adam. “Will Ye Go to Flanders? (Reprise) Scottish Traditional. “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.” German Traditional. “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.” Philip Nicolai. “Good King Wenceslas.” Piae Cantionis

PART V: THE RETURN TO BATTLE: “Auld Lang Syne”. Scottish Traditional. “We’re Here Because We’re Here/War Cacophony.” Music: Scottish Traditional Words: Anonymous

EPILOGUE “The Last Post”. English Bugle Call. “Silent Night” (Reprise). Franz Gruber

 

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