Halifax pop-rockers MIR are playing a Christmas show with Symphony Nova Scotia tomorrow night – an 18-song set without a single classic holiday carol to be found.

Asif Illyas, the band’s songwriter and guitarist, said the concept for the concert titled A Soldiers Carol emerged from a boredom-induced “winter album” expressing the hardships of Christmas for soldiers overseas.

“We went through our catalogue of songs and chose songs that had to do with hope and spirit and loss. and constructed it into a story,” Illyas said.


Symphony Nova Scotia caught wind of the album and approached Illyas, bassist Shehab Illyas and drummer Adam Dowling last February.

Illyas has arranged symphonic scores for Gordie Sampson and Buck 65. He said playing his own arrangements, with the trio as the foreground of a 55-piece orchestra, is extremely emotional.

“It sounds so beautiful, its really moving,” he said. “Sometimes it’s even difficult to get through a verse.”

The rock versus classical crossroads proves to be tricky when it comes to the mood of playing a live show, he then added.

“You can’t just say, ‘the audience is singing, lets go around a few more times’ it has to all be written and concrete because there’s so many people.”

Performing live with Symphony Nova Scotia is something MIR has wanted to do since the birth of the band more than 10 years ago.

The concert will be recorded and is set to air on CBC Radio 1 and CBC Radio 2 Christmas day.

Resident conductor Martin MacDonald will be leading the symphony, who will also perform with MIR on Saturday night at St. John's Anglican Church in Lunenburg at 7:30 p.m.

“Music really does cross boundaries,” Illyas said. “You could be from completely different musical backgrounds, but if you use the language of music to communicate it, everyone knows what you’re talking about.”

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