If you take a walk along the Village Stroll in December you’re sure to notice signs of the holiday season anywhere you look; there is snow on the ground, tree are lit up, wreaths have been hung, and beneath the voices of crowds of people strains of holiday music can be heard. As in many communities, music plays an important part in Whistler’s holiday traditions, many of which began in the 1980s when the Whistler of today was still developing. Events such as the Bizarre Bazaar (now the Arts Whistler Holiday Market) would not be complete without festive music in the background and for thirty-three years the Christmas Eve Carol Service has brought local residents and visitors together to sing carols as one community. Though rarely performed, Whistler even has its own Christmas musical.
“Christmas at Rainbow Lodge” was written by Bob Daly and Molly Boyd and first performed by the students of Myrtle Philip School in December 1984. Daly was the principal of the school from 1981 to 1985 and returned to head the school twice more before retiring in 2002. During her twelve years living in Whistler, Boyd was heavily involved in Whistler’s music scene and its holiday activities – she founded the Whistler Children’s Chorus, was involved in starting the Christmas Eve Carol Service and directed the Whistler Singers. During December she could often be spotted leading the Singers caroling through the Village with her battery-operated keyboard balanced on a shopping cart. The two were inspired to create a musical by Myrtle Philip’s stories of her life as an early European settler in Alta Lake as told to them over tea and Myrtle’s famous rum cake.
The musical tells the shortened and somewhat fictionalized story of how Myrtle and Alex Philip came to build Rainbow Lodge, beginning with Alex’s chance meeting of John Millar in Vancouver in 1911. The story includes their first three-day journey to Alta Lake and meeting with loggers, trappers, railroad workers, miners and hunters who already lived or were working in the area. Each group of people the pair meets helps them in some way as they begin settling and building. To thank all these people for their kindness, they all are invited to share in the Philips’ first Christmas at Rainbow Lodge.
Unlike many holiday concerts, most of the music in “Christmas at Rainbow” is not about Christmas. Instead, the majority are folk songs from the Pacific Northwest such as “Acres of Clams” and “The PGE Song”, many of which were collected by Philip J Thomas, a composer, singer, teacher and folklorist who founded the Vancouver Folk Song Circle and was instrumental in collecting and preserving the folk music of British Columbia.
Since its inaugural performance in 1984, “Christmas at Rainbow” has been performed only twice more: once by the students of the current Myrtle Philip Community School in the 1990s and once by the intermediate students of Spring Creek Community School in 2012.
Happy Holidays from the Whistler Museum!