A CHRISTMAS CAROL HOLIDAY SPECIAL
A CHRISTMAS CAROL HOLIDAY SPECIAL is a two-hour televised show featuring a variety of Canada’s most prominent actors, singers and musicians, performing the original “A Christmas Carol” story by Charles Dickens.
Filmed in front of a live audience at one of the most beautiful venues in Toronto, the Church of the Redeemer, A CHRISTMAS CAROL HOLIDAY SPECIAL is hosted by Bill Anderson and stars Judy Maddren, Marilyn Lightstone, Leah Pinsent, Peter Keleghan, Eric Peterson and world famous pianist David Warrack. After the reading of “A Christmas Carol” is complete, the show reaches its pinnacle with a newly arranged version of Marilyn Lightstone’s all-inclusive holiday song “The Light Shines All Over the World”.
Church of the Redeemer is located in downtown Toronto at the corner of Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. It’s a vibrant community in the heart of the city that seeks to make room for all people. The Drop-In Meal Program at Church of the Redeemer operates Monday through Friday, 9am-12noon, serving the city’s most vulnerable. The program provides breakfast and lunch daily, along with important services (such as medical care, counselling, employment and housing assistance), and healthy activities that promote community and healing. For more information, or to support this vital program serving Toronto’s homeless and isolated, please visit www.theredeemer.ca
Judy Maddren, who truly is “the founder of our feast”, started the annual CBC readings of this beloved book in 1990. Through her inspiration and promotion, these readings have benefited shelters, food banks, libraries and hospitals across Canada, and brought joy to the communities that support them.
Peter Keleghan is a 5 time Gemini award winning actor whose best-known roles have been film industry CEO Alan Roy on Made in Canada, low-IQ news anchor Jim Walcott on The Newsroom, and Ranger Gord on The Red Green Show. He was one of two actors who portrayed George Costanza’s arch nemesis Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld.
Leah Pinsent is a multi nominated, three time Gemini award winner, along with other nomination nods for the Canadian Comedy Awards and the Genies. She most recently starred as Nana in Michel Tremblay’s “For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again”.
Leah studied at NYC’s Circle in the Square and LA’s Playhouse West where she also performed in and directed various stage productions. The end of 2010, Leah performed in the season finale of Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre. As a producer Leah co-created, starred in and executive produced the CBC 2010 special, Love Letters. A tribute to Gurney’s play along side some of Canada’s top actors.
If Marilyn’s face looks familiar, it’s might be because it’s also the face of Muriel Stacey, Anne’s beloved teacher in Anne of Green Gables, one of the many roles she has played in a long and varied acting career.
On the literary side, Marilyn is the published author of Rogues and Vagabonds, which will shortly be available on your favourite e-book apparatus.
When not otherwise engaged, she can be found in her beloved art studio, where she works happily at both painting and photography.
Eric Peterson, Canadian stage and television actor is returning for his fifth year. He has been a reader since 2007, and we have claimed him as “our own” for the generosity of his time and talent that he has cheerfully brought to the Redeemer readings.
David Warrack (Composer, Conductor, Pianist, Orchestrator). Born in Calgary, David first performed on radio when he was five. Since then, regardless of the venue, be it stage, television, the concert hall, film, the recording studo, or an amazing church in downtown Toronto,
come. Stay tuned!
Thom Allison most recently starred as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime at the Shaw Festival after finishing a year long run of his Broadway debut in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical. Thom was in the original Canadian companies of Miss Saigon, The Who’s Tommy and Rent. He has been nominated for 2 Dora Awards, 2 Betty Awards, a Jessie Award , an Ovation Award and a Sterling Award.
On film, Thom has been seen in MVP (Raoul), Leaving Metropolis (Shannon), Last Dance starring Patrick Swayze (Babysitter), Road to Christmas starring Jennifer Grey and Clark Gregg (Michele), and I Me Wed (Bill). His CD, “A Whole Lotta Sunlight” is available on iTunes. Visit his website www.thomallison.com
12 TUXES is an exciting new vocal ensemble under the direction of David Warrack, one of Canada’s leading musical luminaries. It features twelve of Toronto’s finest male soloists and choristers, all of whom hail from such notable organizations as the Canadian Opera Company, Elmer Iseler Singers, Nathaniel Dett Chorale and the Elora Festival Singers.
Williamson Road Orff Choir
The Williamson Rd. Children’s Orff Choir singing in “A Christmas Carol Holiday Special” is a classroom of french immersion students led by their music teacher, Sheila Brand. The boys and girls in this class sing and play Orff instruments in music class as well as participating in everything from dance and drama to soccer and hockey.
Bill Anderson is a broadcast veteran and one of the few on-air personalities in this city who was actually born and raised in Toronto. Bill grew up in the Beaches, spent his teens in Scarborough, and has lived most of his adult life in Etobicoke and Mississauga.
Bill’s radio career has included virtually every type of musical format, from Pop to Rock to Easy Listening to Country to Classical. Bill says, “During all of the years when I worked the various ‘pop-music’ formats, I’d tune in classical music stations for my own personal listening time. Now, I can combine business and pleasure while hosting Bill’s Classical Jukebox on THE NEW CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.”
Away from the microphone, Bill loves to travel. He’s hosted several groups of listeners on classical music journeys to Italy, France, Norway, Ireland, Russia, Finland and Sweden. Back home, he enjoys symphony concerts, live theatre and whenever the weather allows, a round of golf.
During the Christmas Season of 2012, Writer and Cordon Bleu Chef, Elizabeth Phillips imagines a conversation with novelist Charles Dickens.
Phillips: Do you believe that your works transcend the written word and if so, which media format do you prefer to best represent your works and Why?
Phillips: Your works achieve instant success and great popularity, much like J.K. Rowling- How do you account for your popularity?
Dickens: It is about the subject of my novels- these are real people that we can relate to with all their challenges, failures, victories and perseverance. I use humor and give great detail about dress and manners and relationships. At the same time we see both the poor and the rich- the upstairs/downstairs. Think of the enormous success of Downton Abbey -This allows the reader to invest themselves in the characters. Suspense plays a vital role- We are waiting for the next chapter in the lives of these characters – of a novel a movie, in essence a continuation of a great story. I have been accused of creating real characters and at the same time others say caricatures- I say I do both. Consider the fabulous success of Soap Operas and reality Television Shows.
Phillips: What is your opinion about how the youth of today are being required to be over educated to find work?
Dickens: I had to leave school at an early age to work. This impacted me deeply and I became a champion for social reform for children. I believe that we are sending our children into a world where they graduate in debt and employers are insisting on post- graduate degrees while offering few promises in return. To me this is as equally oppressing.
Phillips: Today we find so many Charities suffering from donor fatigue. Mr. Dickens tell me what charity do you support?
Dickens: I believe that poverty and homelessness are two of the most serious social issues facing us today. I would support charities that offer shelter and education to help the hungry and the homeless and the disadvantaged. The In From the Cold program is one- but we need both immediate and long-term solutions.
Phillips: Staying married seems increasingly challenging. Do you think that your very difficult childhood or the fact that you had so little time for your wife was the reason for the break up of your marriage after 22 years and leaving your 10 children?
Dickens: I do. I spent most of my time writing and even when traveling abroad with my family I was researching for my novels. I did not spend enough time with my wife or my children. I was more determined to initiate social reform and I lost sight of my family.
Phillips: In “A Tale of Two Cities” you wrote that France “rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it….” Considering our current economic woes, would you feel comfortable substituting the Western World for France?
Dickens: I would be very comfortable indeed. The facts speak for themselves.
Dickens: Here, I shall refer to David Copperfield‘s Mr. Micawber: “if a man had twenty pounds a year, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy; but a shilling spent the other way would make him wretched”.
Phillips: Many of the most memorable scenes in your novels revolve around food. How would you compare your interest in food compared to the “foodies?
Dickens: In the Western world people are obsessed with the glamor of food. It is a reflection of a wealthy society. However instead of cooking many prefer to experience it vicariously through glossy magazines and multimedia. Food is a basic human preoccupation and I use it as a metaphor. The poor are preoccupied in attaining food as a matter of survival and the rich use it as a social tool. For me, food is a way of enjoying friends and family in the best way one can-no matter what your means.
Phillips: Would you consider being the next Iron Chef or would preparing a meal on dinner party wars be more your style?
Dickens: I would probably lean toward the dinner party wars and hope that the dinner goes better than when David Copperfield’s Dora ruins the roast!
Phillips: Could you see yourself as Iron Chef Dickens and if so, who would you most like to compete against?
Dickens: Probably Chef Morimoto…I am a big fan of Sushi!
Dickens: Yes I believe it can and does I am flattered by Karl Marx’s considering me in “[t]he present splendid brotherhood of fiction-writers in England whose graphic and eloquent pages have issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.”
Phillips: It is said that David Copperfield is your most autobiographical work would it be fair to say that he is your favorite character?
Dickens: Yes, of all my books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them…But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child. And his name is David Copperfield.
Dickens: I most admire charity and I detest greed.
Dickens: That I made a difference. I would hope that I created a set of works that both delighted and entertained my audience while I drew attention to the need for Social Reform. This need continues and I hope that my works will further this cause into posterity.
Dickens: It was a pleasure to speak with you Miss Phillips. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Ask Dickens Q&A and Plum Pudding Recipe written/provided by Elizabeth Phillips:
Elizabeth is a writer and Cordon Blue Chef. She comes from a long line of Charles Dickens Enthusiasts. She grew up reading first editions of his works that her family collected.
Plum Pudding Recipe
Plum Pudding from Dickens A Christmas Carol“Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. “
Traditional Plum pudding was a very labor-intensive traditional dessert and was usually prepared well in advance to let the pudding develop flavor. Luckily, Victorian Times kitchen staff was considered essential. It took hours to chop all the ingredients. Today, we have far less time to prepare the pudding and have machines to do the work for us. We also have a far greater variety of ingredients to choose from. Despite the name “plum pudding,” the pudding contains no plums as the pre-Victorian used the name “plums” as a term for raisins.
I have included an updated version that is more reflective of current tastes. I have adapted this Recipe from Canadian Living, making changes that reflect my palate. Traditional Plum pudding calls for Kidney suet, which is very difficult to find. I have substituted butter, as I prefer the flavor. Candied citron is also traditional however I have substituted dried cranberries.
In keeping with the current trend of individual servings and the confidence to take recipes and mix and match flavors and presentation methods. This is the hallmark of the modern cook.
Steamed pudding molds can be found in cookware shops or on line. The molds are dome-shaped and have a tight-fitting cover designed to keep moisture inside during cooking. If you don’t have a steamed pudding mold, a large metal coffee tin can be used. You will need several layers of foil and kitchen twine to cover and tightly seal the can during cooking. For the individual puddings ramekins are widely available.
This is a time-consuming recipe with several steps and yet I think once a year it is well worth the effort. That effort and pride we take as we offer forth the Pudding is our best gift.
Mini Plum Puddings
Portion size: Serves 6 to 12 depending on size of the mold
1 cup (250 mL) golden raisins
1 cup (250 mL) Thompson raisins or chopped prunes,
1 cup (250 mL) dried blueberries (or currants)
1 cup (250 mL) chopped dried cranberries
1-cup (250 mL) brandy or dark rum, (or 1/3 cup/75 mL orange juice)
1 cup (250 mL) whole blanched almonds or pecans, finely chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, softened
3/4 cup (175 mL) packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1-cup (250 mL) fresh bread crumbs (use the food processor)
1-cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp. (4 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) nutmeg
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) ground cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) ground ginger
In large bowl, combine raisins, (and/or prunes) dried blueberries or currants, raisins, dried cranberries and brandy. Cover and let stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in almonds.
Take six ramekins and grease with butter six 1-cup (250 mL)
Line the bottom of each ramekin with circle of parchment paper. brush the parchment with butter. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. In separate bowl, whisk together breadcrumbs, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cloves and ginger; stir into butter mixture alternately with fruit mixture, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of fruit.
Pack into prepared pans, smoothing tops. Place circle of waxed paper directly on the surface of each ramekin. Cover with double-thickness foil; press down side. Tightly tie string around outside just under top edge.
Place pans on rack in large Dutch oven; pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of pans. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, adding boiling water as necessary to maintain level, until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours.
Remove pans from water; let cool on rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around edges to loosen the puddings and Place 2 tablespoons of heated sauce on the bottom of the dessert plates and swirl the sauce on the plates. Serve with a sprig of holly if desired.
2/3 cup (150 mL) packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (150 mL) whipping cream
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
Pinch of sea salt
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract- use the very best quality
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cranberries
In saucepan, bring sugar, sea salt, cream and butter to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. (Make-ahead: Let cool; refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours. Add cranberries at this point and Gently reheat.
To Present the Pudding Dickens Style:
She entered the room, flushed “but smiling proudly; with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in a half-a-quartern of ignited brandy and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Bob Cratchit is in love.
If you are preparing individual puddings flambéing is not as easy. Here are the instructions: Presentation tip-Decorate a festive platter with Holly and save a piece for the top.
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 cup cognac
Add the 1-teaspoon sugar to the cognac. Gently heat and bring to a boil. Pour over warm pudding, and flame with a long match. (Have several matches just in case the first match does not do the trick) Serve with hard sauce.
Mandarin Brandy Hard Sauce
This is my rendition of hard sauce. The mandarin brandy is delicious and brightens the sauce.
Yield: 1 1/2
8 ounces or 2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups of sifted icing sugar
A pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons of Heavy cream
4-6 Tablespoons of Mandarin Brandy
Whip the butter in a mixer and add the icing sugar a little at a time. Add the pinch of salt. Add the heavy cream and the Mandarin Brandy.
Tip: You can make this ahead and store tightly sealed in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Merry Christmas to one and all!