For the London Free Press – December 24, 2012
Charles Dickens’ stories and characters live in our hearts; none more so than his iconic A Christmas Carol. Who can forget the sinfully greedy Ebenezer Scrooge and his subsequent redemption at the hands of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come?
Yet something people might not know is that Dickens himself had a large heart, and often used profits from his own dramatic readings of this holiday classic to fund charities focusing on hospitals and education for the poor.
A Christmas Carol, written in 1843 and Dickens’ personal favourite, reflected the challenging conditions of the “Hungry Forties” (that would be the 1840s), and is credited with bringing back Christmas cheer to Victorian England.
On Dec. 12, Claude Pensa and a team of London’s leading legal minds teamed up with Orchestra London for the fifth straight year to carry on Dickens’ generous charitable traditions in support of the Unity Project, an organization that fights homelessness in London.
Jamie Caskey of Siskinds, Maia Bent of Lerners, John Graham of Foster Townsend Graham, Vicki Edgar of Cohen Highley and Claude Pensa and Lorrie Por of Harrison Pensa gave dramatic readings of the five “staves” or chapters, of A Christmas Carol.
The readings were based on an abbreviated version of the novel Dickens used in his own dramatic live readings. The interludes were filled with the music of Orchestra London, conducted by Alain Trudel.
The readers were given dramatic coaching to ensure the story leapt off the pages and came to life in the minds of the audience. At the end, the audience joined the narrators in a holiday sing-along of favourite Christmas songs.
Attendees were invited to donate what they could to attend the show. The 832 audience members generously donated $6,995 at the door. Combined with sponsorships, this year’s show grossed $48,655. Ten of the audience members were residents of the Unity Project.
The Unity Project is a London charity that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing, and supports self-help where people are struggling to escape or avoid homelessness.
The narrators of the Christmas Carol were given a tour of the Unity Project prior to the reading. Lorrie Por from Harrison Pensa said she was “humbled by the experience of touring the Unity Project and meeting the volunteers that make a difference in people’s lives every single day.’’
She also gained a better appreciation of the challenges faced by those in desperate need on a day-to-day basis.
Don and Joan Smith were the presenting sponsors and many of London’s local law firms — including Harrison Pensa — served as star sponsors of the show.
David Canton is a business lawyer and trade-mark agent with a technology focus at Harrison Pensa LLP. This article, written with the assistance of Lauren McLean, contains general comments only, not legal advice.