The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fifty-Eight

What, another comment about music?

Yes, but I’ll be brief. Sunday afternoon the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra put on their Winter Concert. In one word: excellent. My only complaint — once again, while we can get 3,000 out to take in a Junior hockey league game we can’t get 300 out to take in perhaps even more talented young people play their hearts out. Sometimes I am not surprised that Penticton thinks it needs another grocery store before it gets a performing arts centre; I am no longer sure that the majority of people understand how critical the arts are to the preservation of humanity.

I can go to a hockey game or a football game and see skill, but I also have to be prepared for some violence. Now I will admit that I am a keen fan of the CFL (I’ve just come back from perhaps my 30th Grey Cup in my lifetime); but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate watching and listening to nothing but skill for a couple of hours. Besides, with the abuse I’ve given my brain over the years, the music is actually restorative. But even more important, these concerts show that there is yet hope for altruistic life on this planet.

By this I mean that the participants on Sunday afternoon, by and large, will not play in the orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera or the Montreal Symphony or even the Calgary Philharmonic. But I am willing to bet that before their lives are done, many of them will teach others to be amateur musicians, some will play for local musical groups from ensembles to potentially the Symphony itself. Some may even compose. Others will do solo gigs at a wide range of events. All of them will continue to freely (or for “peanut wages”) share their love of music and their respective talents for producing music. And every time they do, the world will be better off. Even if only during their performances, there will be a little more peace and reflection.

Sunday was no exception. Two young extremely talented women played violin solos — Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole — intermezzo” and Bruch’s “Violin Concerto — adagio & finale”. Another piece the orchestra played was composed by one of its own members: Leif Jack’s “Funeral Anthem / WV5 from Ragnarrok” and it’s more than good enough to be played at my Requiem!! These were incredible moments in the show. Forget that they are kids — they are amazing talents and the two co-conductors (Dennis Colpitts & Rosemary Thomson) are to be commended for bringing out the virtuosity in each of them. They made the first half of the concert more than worth the price of admission (which itself was pretty inexpensive), and that is without considering the opening piece composed by Bramwell Tovey (about to retire as the Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra) called “Sky Chase” which itself, if you closed your ideas, was an exciting drive up the Sea to Sky highway north of Vancouver.

The second half of the show was full orchestra with a variety of people playing solo and small team vignettes in the midst of the different pieces. The first piece was Leroy Anderson’s “Christmas Festival” and the students played it with the passion only students not worrying about offending anyone could produce — I’ve been in churches where there was less enthusiasm for that music. It was almost tempting to try to sing some of the carols, except the medley was so intertwined that it was just best to sit back and allow the Advent Season to wash over you. They then did a version of “Stille Nacht” arranged by Chip Davis and Calvin Custer — I’ve never heard this version before but I was blown away by the colours and tonality the orchestra was able to bring out. As well there were moments when a young Henry Baker playing the piano made one think we were back in Germany working on the very first portrayal of this classic. It was simply a delight. Then, just to show that the orchestra can actually get people tapping their toes, they launched into a variety of selections from Piotr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” — it wasn’t hard to close your ideas and see the toy soldiers marching, remember the arabian dance and other moments from that wonderful musical event of childhood. The concert concluded with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and even though there wasn’t much snow to speak of outside (except where it belongs, up on the mountains), when they were finished one almost expected to head home in a “one horse soap & sleigh” (at least that’s what I thought I was taught in Grade I in Innisfail Alberta a few decades back!!).

No matter…this was a great concert and those who were there were not simply lucky, they were richly rewarded…I know, because I was one of them…