The Epistle of Q — Chapter 109

Once again the Okanagan Symphony hits the Top Ten

Actually you can re-state that: OSO reaches #1… and in big way…

I think the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra is one of the best regional orchestras I have ever had the pleasure to listen to, to enjoy. Last night was another example of why it is so good – Rosemary Thompson, the Music Director and Conductor is brilliant and she is innovative. In cooperation with the Gary Cable Project and the Spectrum Singers she put on a truly epic Rock Odyssey. Earlier this month I was convinced I should attend a big travelling show We Will Rock You featuring among other groups the music of Queen. Well it was a disappointment. The music was ok but the presentation was inadequate. The OSO did a much better job on all accounts.

The programme started with the Beatles (Eleanor Rigby, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help from My Friends) and the 2nd encore concluded with the Beatles (All we need is LOVE). In between it was one great musical event after another. Procol Harum’s Conquistador (with the appropriate recognition of the Edmonton Symphony’s first orchestra pairing with Procol in 1972) followed by the only mistake of the evening. They chose a piece from Kansas, but instead of Dust in the Wind it was Carry on Wayward Son – not only is it not a well-known song (done by anyone), it did not come across as clearly as all the rest. Next was Viva la Vida from Cold Play and this was exceptionally performed. This was followed by the Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again – beautifully rendered as was the Moody Blue’s Nights in White Satin. Both these pieces had great orchestral arrangements and the vocals were presented by different members of the Gary Cable Project. Before we could get too romantically settled in, they came back with Wings’ Live & Let Die from a James Bond film. It was almost monumental in the guitar riffs demonstrated in contrast to the orchestra itself. The first half ended with a medley from TOTOAfrica, I won’t hold you back, and then Rosanna. As the crowd filed out to refresh their drinks everyone was obviously energized and eager for the second half.

As the second half got underway, the entire ensemble was joined by the Spectrum Singers. This audition-entry choir of the Central Okanagan certainly showed they were more than simply a back-up act. The set started with 5th Dimension’s Aquarius & Let the Sunshine In and the Choir made sure we were effectively transported back to that time when we actually thought peace and good vibes were wonderful objectives. I almost sensed I was back on the campus of the University of Minnesota!! The next offering required the participation of everyone on stage at some point or another. It was Supertramp’s Fool’s Overture – and I think they actually did it better than the members of Supertramp themselves did originally!! But the performance was just getting started really because they next did an incredible job of Richard Harris’ MacArthur Park (complete with some backstories as to how Jimmy Webb came to compose the piece in the first place). While I like the Harris’ original, Richard is not a powerful singer – the Gable Project provided a more impactful vocal version. (And it should be noted that once, in an earlier life, my kids had a dog named after MacArthur Park – so maybe I am a bit biased.) Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was ethereal – complete with almost every cell phone’s flashlight being turned on as if we all were in a big football stadium trying to emulate a candle ritual for the Two Popes. It was neat and set the stage for the finale which, not surprisingly (since it is Rosemary’s favourite piece from the rock music genre) was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The entire group really put themselves into this piece and the entire auditorium was rocking – would have been even sweeter if we had a proper concert hall!! As it was, it was so much better than the version at the SOEC a couple weeks ago, that I accepted the short-comings of the Cleland Theatre. The first encore was We Are the Champions and even though I have heard that song at every playoff game and Grey Cup moment in the CFL, and any other champsionship event I’ve attended in the last four decades, it is so impressive when one gets to hear an orchestra, a polished rock group and a professional choir combine to put it out there.

And then the second encore closed the evening – one almost didn’t want to leave – just so much energy, not just on the stage but throughout the hall as well. Wonderful evening. Thank you Okanagan Symphony Orchestra – just goes to show how different genres of music can come together on a stage and make all in attendance, glad they were there.