The Epistle of Q — Chapter 181

Something special happened…

Well, here we are again – the oldest living grad of Toronto’s SICK KIDS hospital is celebrating her 106th birthday

On a different note, yesterday was somewhat weird – maybe because it was the eve of the aforementioned birthday? The day started reasonably enough with a mini-workout followed by a trip to the bottle/container charity return depot. Then the wind picked up and I decided I should probably use the opportunity to rake up some of the leaves that had fallen since the first off-piste snowfall at the beginning of November. There were even moments of sun, along with more leaves falling from the trees, to accompany this rather un-January activity. I’m happy to say that I think I have defeated some of the potential mould by getting quite a bit of the leaves off the mulch and onto the creek bank. (I have heard that there is an increase in the amount of serious illness arising from newly emerging moulds including, on occasion, fatal results – I can’t remember the names, but precautions are warranted – so I’m told!!)

I had hardly finished the raking, when lo and behold it started to snow again – not as unusual for January I guess. This all happened because I decided to have a wee nap. The arrival of snow would have been bad enough but I also forgot that there were some outdoor hockey games going on downtown as part of the BCHL All-Star weekend. Missing that was not a happy moment – especially since we have this new mini- outdoor rink with artificial ice down by city hall. The snow began to pick up over dinner so the driveway needed a bit of cleaning before heading off to the Symphony – but more on that later.

I really need to take a moment to comment on the presentation of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO for those here, in the know!!). We have an extraordinary Conductor & Music Director in Rosemary Thomson (whom I first met when she was the Resident Conductor & Chorus Master at the Calgary Philharmonic). She risks often to introduce the Valley to new and/or different types of music & musicians. Last night was an exceptionally risky move: it was her (& the orchestra’s) attempt at doing something for Reconciliation. Well, it turned out that if this is an example of positive reconciliation, we should have this kind of performance every season. The guest performer was Cris Derksen and the name of the show was Round Dance. If you ever hear of this artist and/or the show, GO… it is amazing. Cris is Cree from Northern Alberta (North Tall Cree Reserve) with a Mennonite mother so she calls herself a Creeonite and that is just part of the humour, fun and depth of insight that this individual brings to the stage.

She plays the cello – actually has a carbon-fibre one that probably costs as much as my SUV. She is tech-savvy so does looping during certain pieces so she creates layers of sound within the performance (normally this is only done in the studio and then comes out on the CD or LP or whatever). She did five pieces (yepp, 5 and each one was different) plus she did an encore. She also sings, both in Cree and English, during particular moments of specific songs. She creates/composes the music for the orchestra so that the presentation sounds almost surreal. Her song War Cry reminded me of a couple of prairie pow wows I was at in an earlier time. Her version of Round Dance took me to several high school graduations at Aboriginal schools in Saskatchewan. And she also did a piece by Sonnie-Ray Day Rider who is a young Aboriginal composer studying at the University of Lethbridge. All I can say is I am looking forward to more of his work – it was unique and very special.

Rosemary made sure that the evening appropriately book-ended Cris’ amazing performances. The Orchestra launched the evening with a piece by a Sri Lankan (Dinuk Wijeratne) now in Canada and working on his doctorate in music: True North Part 1: First Winter is an attempt to imagine what winter was like in Canada before humans touched foot on the land. The attempt was more than successful – the music made me think of nights when I delivered papers as a kid and the snow would be falling in southern Ontario. The composer, coming from Sri Lanka to Halifax, obviously had quite an awakening when winter first arrived for him!!

The next piece of La Festin du l’araignee (The Spider’s Feast) by Roussel led nicely into Cris’ Overture to the Spiderbeing. After intermission, Rosemary led the SOS through Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op.46 which again set the stage very nicely for Cris’ return for another series of special pieces. As I said to both of them after the show – it was special, very special.

Only disappointment – the lack of music students and their teachers. With the number of secondary schools in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, the parking lot should have been loaded with school buses. Even the pre-concert talk would have given them more knowledge about the potential for Aboriginal/Classical/Modern music fusion that a month of classroom lectures.

But that oversight on the part of the educators is their loss. For those of us at the concert we received a gift seldom given during the wokeness of much that passes for reconciliation. We saw and heard a truly outstanding professional composer and performing musician, backed by a group of talented professional musicians that were able to come together under the baton of their conductor to play some music they probably had never dreamed in their developmental days of coming across, let alone playing, to present an evening of astoundingly vibrant entertainment. There is always good music at any OSO concert – last night everyone took it to a new level. Thank you Cris. Thank you Rosemary. Thank you every single member of the Orchestra.

A wonderful start it the 2023 season!! (Of course this morning I had to get up and resume the snow shoveling process through the neighbourhood but the memory of last night made the whole task much easier!!)