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Ken Herman on ALL IS CALM

Wednesday evening in the hall of La Jolla’s St. James Episcopal Church, Bodhi Tree Concerts and the choral ensemble Sacra/Profana offered an unusual preview for press and donors of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. Sacra/Profana Associate Conductor Juan Carlos Acosta conducted a select group of his male chorus members and soloists from San Diego Opera, which is also collaborating in this production, in 30 minutes of music from this play that will be staged November 19 & 20, 2016, at the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.

All Is Calm began seven years ago in Minnesota as a radio play by Peter Rothstein with musical arrangements for male voices composed by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. According to Jacob Bruce, the San Diego actor who is directing this San Diego production, the play was first staged by the Minneapolis company Theatre Latté assisted by the vocal ensemble Cantus. All Is Calm portrays how ordinary soldiers on both sides of World War I converged in a cessation of war on the battle field in Belgium over Christmas Day and actually exchanged gifts and sang to each other.

Among the moving songs Acosta and his singers performed from the play’s 20 musical components were the traditional Scottish ballad “Will You Go to Flanders?” the British popular song “A Long Way to Tipperary,” the French noël “O Holy Night,” and the original Welsh version of “Auld Lang Syne.” In contrast to the typical press conference self-congratulatory speech making, the live choral music proved a more compelling promotion for the upcoming stage performances.

Bruce noted that in some cities, staging All Is Calm has become a December tradition. For this critic, who would rather swallow crushed glass than sit through yet another version of A Christmas Carol, that would be a welcome addition to the San Diego calendar.

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