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Song of Flanders will be performed March 22nd and March 23rd  by the Sooke Chamber Players and soprano Nancy Washeim, and with the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus and Tashi Meisami Farivar (mezzo soprano), Josh Lovell (tenor) and Nick Allen (bass), conducted by Wade Noble.

This will be the Canadian premiere of Straughan’s work.

Brent has something to smile about

Brent has something to smile about

The genesis of Song of Flanders, Brent tells us, went something like this:

“Many years ago I was extremely upset by a national cenotaph ceremony, which featured a children’s choir singing a ghastly little something as a setting for John McCrae’s famous poem. I intensely loathed what I heard. I stomped off and listened to eight other settings. I hated them all — unimaginative, anti-musical, malodorous tripe.”

Brent had an uncle in Victoria who lied about his age at 17 to become a
stretcher bearer at Vimy, and in WWII another uncle had three tanks shot out from under him in North Africa. Yet another uncle was the first allied soldier to land at Sicily, and was promptly grenaded for his pains. His sergeant rappelled
up a cliff with the wounded man over his shoulder, and left him in a cave for the medics. This uncle, Uncle Max died, just as Brent was finishing Song of Flanders.

Brent felt the McCrae poem, which every school child has declaimed, is part of our Canadian heritage.

“It was nurtured at the rivers of Canadian sensibility. It was forged in the crucible of a great war. The music that matches it must come from here. No one else can do this for us, it’s ours. There absolutely has to be music that matches the archetypical power and imagery of this poem. I decided to try my hand.”

Driving in to work in Ontario in an unheated truck in midwinter at three in the morning, the first crucial theme came to him and he sang it all the way into work, where he wrote it down on some videotape labels.

Brent has been composing all his life.  Day jobs have included the likes of TV news cameraman and film editor, helicopter pilot, farmer.

He remembers his mother patiently enduring his early compositions, as he banged on pots and pans in the kitchen. He remembers sitting at the piano in little blue rompers, staring at the bubble lights on the Christmas tree.  He says, “Suddenly it came to me, that I didn’t need the written page to tell me how to put sounds together! Epiphany! I could make up the order of sounds myself! I could decide what the left hand and right hand played together! Whole new worlds of thought arrayed themselves brightly before me! I was free from that moment.”

He enjoys playing along with his violin parts as much as he can –  or cello parts, or piano parts, or singing along, if no one is near. Composition is a solitary activity, and this allows him to hear what he is doing.  As he plays the part he can imagine where it could go. He says, “I find it very easy to image the sound of a particular singer in my head and I work with an astonishingly precise version of their voice in my mind, as I go.  I have no idea why I can do that, but I can.”

The Sooke Philharmonic community knows Brent well. He sits in the front desk of the second violins, and in the absence of an oboe can provide musicians with a good A in a full, operatic voice.

He is fully enjoying the production process. “I know the musicians and singers very well; I have played faithfully alongside them for twelve years.  Each is putting something extra into the live performance, that cannot be captured on a recording.  There is no drama like the ultimate risk of live recording and the subtle ways Norman shapes string expression continue to amaze us all. I am very, very grateful for this realization.

“From the first rehearsal, when I heard Mary Jane Watson and someone else
singing my themes while putting away their cellos, a steady stream of compliments and encouragement have come in to me from the orchestra, choir and soloists.”

In May, Straughan flies to Texas, to hear the Fort Worth Opera play a segment of his opera Precari, about interfaith love in the Sarajevo conflict. Eight modern operas from around the world were chosen for this show. One or two of the operas will be produced on the Fort Worth company mainstage.

The following anecdote told by Brent is not relevant to this column except that it’s a great story, and reminds us how tough and resourceful people were, in the days before Medivacs and SUV’s.

“Once in Mayerthorpe my father went out to a farmhouse in a winter storm to
deliver a baby.  The railway gave him a handcar, and he propelled himself along the track, hopped off at the right farmhouse with his medical bag, waded through the snow drifts, climbed the barbed wire fence and made it to the farmhouse. He delivered the baby, then the woman’s womb prolapsed.  A woman, I remember him telling me, “can bleed to death in seven minutes.”  No fancy saline drips transfusions or bloody anything. He made a saline solution in a milk bucket, found some sort of farm hose and kept her womb bathed in saline after replacing it, and she made it!”

Hear Song of Flanders at the Sooke Baptist Church on Saturday, March 22  at 7:30 pm, or the New St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin on Sunday, March 23 in the afternoon at 2:30 pm.

Check the Song of Flanders website, http://songofflanders.com/

Watch a clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bg2J0X2Co4&list=PL04883E585601827A

Read about Brent in the Times Colonist,

http://www.timescolonist.com/sooke-philharmonic-orchestra-and-chorus-debuts-war-tribute-1.916981

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She will sing this weekend  with the Sooke Chamber Players and the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus

Nancy Washeim, carrying on a delightful Christmas tradition, will perform the Salve Regina D.676 (Op. 153) November 20th and December 1st , in Sooke and Metchosin.

“I’ve really enjoyed working on the Salve Regina with Norman and the orchestra. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to sing something from Schubert’s sacred works.  I have sung many of Schubert’s lieder or songs and have admired his beautiful melodies,” she told us.

“The text of Salve Regina comes from the Middle Ages, and it was used as a part of the liturgy of the Catholic church. It is exciting to sing this piece as it borders the Classical and Romantic period. I find Schubert’s phrasing very melodic and lovely to sing. It is an interesting change as I am used to singing a lot more Handel and Bach.”

Nancy is being kept very busy with singing. She said, “One highlight musically from this past year was the Monteverdi Vespers.  It was a work that I have wanted to sing for many years, and I was so thrilled!”

The Vespers were performed last June, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Victoria, Peter Butterfield conducting.

She is still teaching voice in her studio here in Sooke, and told us, “I have to say that teaching is equally thrilling for me.  I feel that my teaching compliments my performing. I guess you have to try and practice what you preach! It is wonderful to be a part of such a supportive musical community.”

The concerts on Saturday and Sunday will be held in the Sooke Baptist Church and the New St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin, and will be conducted by Wade Noble, with Norman Nelson in the Concertmaster chair.

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Keaton Standing by a Ferrari in Monaco

Keaton in Monaco with Ferrari

How did you get started on the piano?  Did you love it right away?

There was a small piano situated in our living room when I was a baby.  As soon as I could reach the keys, I would play repetitive notes on it.  My older brother used to play songs like “O Canada” and “Heart and Soul” on the piano.  He taught me how to harmonize “Heart and Soul” and I instantly loved it.  I was intrigued by all the sounds I could make on the piano, especially the percussive effect it had.  When I got older, my mom put me into lessons, which I looked forward to every week.

What do you like most about playing?  What do you like least?

I like the solitude of the piano, especially when I am learning new repertoire.  I like how I can express emotions that might not be conveyable in words.  On the other hand, I love playing with other musicians!  I enjoy the energy of playing collaboratively.  It has an invigorating effect that I find thrilling.  What I like least is not having enough time to practice and explore new repertoire because of schoolwork and other commitments.

Is there something special about the Beethoven that made you choose it?

I heard one of my friends playing it and I instantly connected to its magic and its diverse character.  It is infused with such rich imagination.  Its harmonic gestures personally resonated as simultaneously simple yet complex.  There is power and majesty in this concerto combined with tender delicacy.  I wanted to get inside the piece to try to better understand what Beethoven was creatively communicating.

Do you have a second instrument?

Yes, I also play percussion.  It is great fun to experiment with different beats.  I also sing in my school’s choir.

Are your parents musical?

My mom is innately musical.  She has a deep interest in all forms of music.  My dad is more of a sports enthusiast.  He plays many sports and also coaches.

Keaton at Roman Colosseum

In Rome

Do you have siblings and are they musical too?

I have one older brother who used to play the saxophone, but his real passion is theatre.  He is also the funniest person I know.

Do you go to school? 

Yes, I attend Glenlyon Norfolk School.  I am in Grade 10.  My favourite subjects are mathematics, French, science, and I have a passion for geography.

Keaton Pisa

In Pisa

What do you do to relax?

I like to read atlases.  Seriously, I do!  I read travel guides too.  I also like to watch comedies, listen to music, spend time with friends, swim at the lake, shoot hoops, and walk in nature.

Do you play sports?  Any other interests?

I play basketball and I swim.  I used to be on a competitive swim team but I don’t have enough time to dedicate to swimming right now.  I love to travel.  My grandma took me on a trip to Europe this summer, which was just an amazing experience!   I find it fascinating to learn about customs and cultures of the world.  At school, I am a member of the Model United Nations Club.  We have an upcoming conference that I am really looking forward to.  Another big interest of mine is cars.  Even though I am too young for my driver’s license, I’ve received several speeding tickets.  (Just joking.)  I have actually never driven as I am just 14 but I appreciate the various designs and structures of cars.

Anything else people will be interested to know about you?

Besides my love of music and math, I love roller coasters–the scarier the better!  I also like animals.  I find them fascinating and refreshing in their spontaneous behaviour and unconditional love.  Finally, I must mention that even though I am a bit reserved, I really enjoy a good laugh.

Keaton in Kotor Montenegro

Keaton in Montenegro

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When I was playing in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra nearly 60 years ago, Sir Thomas Beecham was still conducting, and many of the players had known him for years.  Sir Thomas was surrounded by stories. He had a great wit, much off-colour (there were only male members in the orchestra) and perhaps some apocryphal. One story, to do with the young lad, was that when his tutor stated that “Beethoven is the Greatest”, young Thomas said he thought Mozart was the greatest.  The players knew that what Sir Thomas wanted was what Sir Thomas would get.

Flash forward 30 years, and I was teaching the English music curriculum to Cayman Islands students.  I was required to state “Beethoven is the greatest composer”.  The students may have wondered why I had a smile on my face when I complied with the curriculum.  The concept of a “greatest” composer is one I leave with you, but could you advise me what the greatest fruit is? — Larry Hobson

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Some old hands from ’98 take a peek into the past…

Norman conducts the chainsaws at an early Fling.  Photo contributed by Cathy Reader

Norman conducts the chainsaws at an early Fling.
Photo contributed by Cathy Reader

SPO program_debut_concert_June1998

George Kereluk

I can recall a few funny moments with SPO.
Norman in his infinite wisdom decided the SPO would accompany the Sooke theater group for some musical productions.
The theater group was on stage and we were on the floor in front of the stage. During the performance the actors would get quite warm on stage and so they would open the rear doors. We, the musicians would freeze in the pit. I was able to get some warmth by bringing a small portable space heater, about 6″ x 8″, and ran an extension cord to an outlet outside the theater. Austin Scott, flute, noticed this and the next night he brought a space heater the size of a accordion case and plugged it into the power receptacle along with his stand light. A warm red glow flooded the pit and a few minutes later, while we were all playing, all the stand lights when out and the pit orchestra ground to a halt, until the circuit breaker was found several minutes later.

During a performance of the ‘Sound of Music’, there was a scene where the family was in the graveyard hiding from the Nazi storm troopers. During this time the English Horn (played by Jim Warner) held a note for many bars while the rest of the orchestra remained silent. In one of the later performances the musician sitting next to Jim began caressing the inside on Jim’s thigh while Jim played the note. Although his vibrato quickened, Jim, like the trooper he was, held the note until the bitter end. Then without taking his eyes off the music, he whispered, “you son of a *****” and began playing again.

During the same scene and on the last performance of the ‘Sound of Music”, our brass section decided to ad lib. As the family was hiding, one of the family members says “shhh, troopers” and points to the Nazi troopers walking onto the stage. At this point, the brass section played the “storm troopers” theme from Star Wars. The expression on Norman’s face was priceless.

Remembering Jim Warner – by Sue Innes

In the “good old days” when Kathy Kirk held soirées in her Robinson Road home, we’d get together and play many different combinations – quintets, quartets, trios, duos… even solos with piano accompaniment. Lots of strings, but also some winds. We knew Norman and Jenny had a house in Sooke and would be moving out when he retired from his University of Alberta professorship, and were looking forward to his projected “SPAM” – the Sooke Academy of Music – which he talked about to those of us Edmontonians who played in his Academy Strings. So when the move actually happened, and Norman and Jenny turned up at a soirée, Jim blurted out “Would you conduct our orchestra, sir?”
With that, SPO came into being!
Jim was not only an enthusiastic and capable player, but he also knew many wind players, and he arm-twisted lots of them into joining us in the early days. As Norman has said, “If it hadn’t been for Jim, the first wind sections wouldn’t have been so impressive.”
We miss you, Jim!
[For Norman’s post about Jim Warner, scroll down to April 7, 2012.]

Sue Innes, Memories…
Rehearsals in the basement of the old St. Rose of Lima church, with a
scattering of most instruments, but always a great lack of first
violins.
Norman’s great patience with us.

One occasion when Norman wanted us to play really quietly – his usual
way of getting this is to say “Leave it to everyone else.” So after
the break, we (the strings) decided to do just that. The look on his
face as we all mimed playing the notes, with not a single sound
coming from our instruments, was priceless!
Taking a friend from Toronto to one of our concerts at Brentwood
School some years ago. I think Nikki Chooi was playing that time. She
was very impressed and said afterwards,”That was as good as the
Toronto Symphony!”

Well, we’ve improved a lot since then, so does that bring us up to
the Berlin Philharmonic?

Sonja de Wit
In the fall of 1997, we got a call from Kathy Kirk, who told us to go to St. Rose of Lima, on Saturday afternoon; Norman Nelson was setting up an orchestra.
Kealan, my thirteen year-old son, and I knew Norman from the Purcell summer music school in Victoria.
The rehearsal was in the rather dark church basement. There were a lot of large, round white tables that had to be cleared away and put back at every rehearsal. Also, it was cold.
As I remember it, we rehearsed most of the winter. The cello section at the June concert consisted of Janette, Marsh Yawney, and Kealan and Sonja. Marsh was a last-minute addition to bolster the ranks, and of course Janette was in Texas (or somewhere) for most of the winter, so the cello section at many rehearsals was Kealan and Sonja, both of us beginners.
We had started on the cello within a year or so of each other, Kealan first. Our only orchestra playing experience was the Victoria Conservatory Junior Orchestra, conducted by Trudi Conrad, who showed us how conductors beat 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4, and provided us with the advice of a seasoned orchestra player, such as: Always be nice to your stand partner. Bring him or her small presents, such as a pencil decorated with musical notes.
Not advice we ever got from Norman.
Incidentally, the VCM Junior Orchestra that year had a considerable number of what were to be illustrious players: the Chooi brothers, Sam Seong, Hollis and Laine Longton, Adrian Dolan. Sonja was the only grown-up. Laine was my stand partner and she was so tiny she brought her own little chair.
In the newly-hatched SPO, Kealan was my stand partner. Norman was very patient with us and would sing us our parts when there was complete silence, or worse, in the cello section.
Kealan and I both really enjoyed it, though. Norman is, of course, an experience. We also enjoyed some of the other people who played. I remember especially Jim Warner and Bob Meyer were really nice to Kealan. Our stereotype of classical musicians, if we had one, was shattered by players like Frank Younger, who wore fearsome Harley-Davidson leather jackets and had a face to match, and then turned out to be a very funny guy, who had built his own violin. He set Kealan’s sound post back up with a coat hanger in the middle of a rehearsal, when it unaccountably fell down. (Kealan’s cello was prone to odd accidents.)
Norman is a terrific, fun, and above all, musically fascinating conductor. Until I started playing in another orchestra a few years later I assumed that’s what all conductors are like.
The cello section stayed thin for a few years but Norman must have been sacrificing to the right gods, because our ranks filled out with some excellent players. There are no silences or even many odd sounds in the section these days.

Alison Crone
Fifteen Years with the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra!

I am extremely privileged and lucky to be a founding member of the Sooke Phil. Founding member and oboist Jim Warner, who sadly passed away last year, called and invited me to play with a new orchestra that was being formed in Sooke. Always happy to play music with friends, I accepted the invitation and drove out to the St. Rose of Lima Church in Sooke for the very first rehearsal! Our conductor was, of course, Norman and when I found out who he was I almost fell out of my chair!! We had a small but determined group of people in the first rehearsal as we embarked on Beethoven’s First Symphony.
It is safe to say that each and every piece of repertoire that we have undertaken over these 15 years has been challenging from beginning to end. Just when I think I’m catching (on after long bouts of practice) Norman leads us around another corner to strive with more challenges. Norman’s determination to play beautiful music with us never wavers even though I know his patience has been sorely tried many times! I offer my thanks to Norman and Jenny for their hard work and my thanks to my fellow musicians, Board of Directors and many, many volunteers!
We are a lucky bunch!

Mike Cochrane has been collecting Normanisms…
July, 2009 – Dvorak New World, first movement, bar 243, Norman to the first violins: “ I don’t get the feeling you hate the violin enough!”
June, 2012, Tchaikovsky Fourth, beginning, first movement. Norman amidst general chatter suddenly says, “One, two, go!” Less than half the orchestra responds. Lanny Poulet, on second bassoon, sings his note exactly in pitch –F– . Norman looks over at Lanny and says, “You shouldn’t be f—ing around like that.”
Tchaikovsky piano concerto, third movement, bar 252, to cellos: “C’mon… wallow in it!”
Beethoven piano concerto # 3, third movement, bar 80, to strings: “Well, that’s all very well, in a well! But it sounds like spaghetti.”
April, 2012, Tchaikovsky 5th, first movement: “P, for piano, the most ignored letter in the alphabet.”

Ros and Louise Alexander. June 1999.

Ros and Louise Alexander. June 1999.

Ros Alexander

Hard as it is to believe that 15 years have gone by since the founding of the Sooke Philharmonic in 1997, it is even harder for me to remember those early days very clearly.  I do remember a musical dinner party at the home of a Sooke friend from the Hampton Orchestra where I first met Sue Innes, and learned of Norman Nelson’s retirement to Sooke and his plans to found an orchestra in his new home.  At that point I hadn’t met Norman and Jenny, but was soon to have that pleasure.  Even at that first meeting with Sue, never one to let what appeared to be an opportunity pass, she felt me out about driving out to Sooke weekly from Victoria, and urged me to sign up.

The weekly Saturday afternoons in the basement of the original St. Rose of Lima Catholic church, just off the highway, were always interesting and inspiring, though often challenging.  The lighting was dim to say the least, and while Norman’s enthusiasm figuratively lit up the space, he quickly ensured that better lighting was secured.  I also remember being cold much of the time, but then it was a basement, and the amenities we are now used to in Janette Chrysler’s beautiful rehearsal hall was not then available to us.  However, physical surroundings aside, we all, small band that we were, realized what a privilege it was to work with Norman, and word spread fast.

While I was floundering my way around and through the great classical literature that Norman chose for us, my daughter Louise was finishing her music degree in violin performance at McGill. Norman, with his abiding interest in the young, and their education, knew this, and suggested that she perform a Mozart Concerto with the orchestra in June of 1999.  I opted out of the orchestra for that piece, as I didn’t feel that I could adequately concentrate on accompanying while listening.  Instead I chose to be an audience member, crying my eyes out in the back of the hall.  It was one of my proudest moments, and I will be forever grateful to Norman and the Sooke Philharmonic for giving Louise the opportunity for her first solo performance with an orchestra.

Tia Leschke

I remember that dark church basement where we plodded through Beethoven’s First for a whole year. It could be tricky to find a place to sit where one could actually see Norman conducting.
I remember a mother-son cello team, with Kealan still wearing his uniform from the soccer game he had just played. His mother is still playing with us. Yay!
Who could forget all the times that Norman managed to throw away his baton during a concert, usually into the orchestra. And now Sooke Philharmonic Chorus conductor, Wade Nobel, seems to be following in Norman’s noble footsteps.

Joanne Cowan

With the encouragement of my supportive father, upon graduation from high school at age 16 I wrote the famous Mr. Norman Nelson and inquired as to getting a job in the Vancouver Baroque Orchestra.

Instead, as you may not know, I attended the sweet, small Mount Allison University for my Music Ed Degree, where we concentrated on all the Baroque composers – Monteverdi, Allegri, Corelli, Scarlatti, Albinoni, Sordini – well maybe not Sordini but you get the picture. I was in tune with it all, and led the orchestra with developing confidence under the baton of Malcolm Macleod – he was a viola player (need I say more?).

Grad (I am not saying which one), and after a summer of NYO fun, I listed my residence as Vancouver where they flew me, and I began studying there when the Purcell  String Quartet was in residence at SFU. Coincidentally, my brother was #2 in command in the SFU computer department, and it was natural for me to go every week to benefit from the chamber music guidance offered by the quartet. Thinking back, I got lifts to rehearsals from well-wishing people every week – and it is really something to think of the positive influence this generosity offered to my musical development.

Having moved to Vancouver Island and become involved with that musical community I was aware for some time of the whisperings of an orchestra forming in Sooke -  as Norman had chosen to retire there – and when the word came out of it actually starting, well, nothing could hold me back!

I recall the first rehearsal, when he said “Violin eh? Where do you play now?” My response involved a statement ending with “But I play second” to which he asked, “Do you want to play first?” When I answered “Yes” he emphatically echoed “Yes” and with his gesture and “Sit here then”, I was instantly first violin. Yipee!

We played Beethoven’s 1st and that first rehearsal was FUN, challenging – we took it “up to speed” and my fingers worked – and it happened! Imagine playing Beethoven after all that Baroque – it is like moving from Kraft Dinner to gourmet omelettes made with FRESH EGGS!

I have to say that setting up in the dingy little church basement was a royal pain. Big, circular tables needed moving, chairs required setting up, and to me (sweet young thing that I was then) it seemed that Norman and Jenny really deserved help – so I began arriving early to assist with set up… and this enterprising attitude continued. I learned to be a helper, a participator (and just look where it got me!)

When we had our 10th year anniversary I was there along with a handful of founding members of the orchestra – but my mind boggling lesson was that we were a blimp on the scene compared with the other many present who were organizers, contributors, volunteers, board members past and present, and from all over the continent and world. I discovered that Norman is a genius in many ways – often unseen and perhaps inadvertently unappreciated, so “Thanks Norman”.

Catch them early...

Catch them early…

 

Cathy Reader

I must admit that when I was invited to my first Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsal, I thought the name was a little grand for such a small assortment of musicians gathered in a tiny church, but the tremendous enthusiasm and camaraderie of the players and conductor were there from the start. Those early rehearsals, struggling away (I think occasionally I was the only first violin) with Norman’s emphatic exhortations to “play the music, not the notes” were exhilarating and really improved my playing and confidence. It’s no surprise that, with Norman’s inspiring leadership, the orchestra grew rapidly and soon lived up to its name.

 

The Sooke Philharmonic has provided many musical highlights for my kids too, from coming to an October concert in their Halloween costumes to joining in the Radetzky March at the Fling. My older daughter has enjoyed playing with the orchestra for a couple of years. I can’t think of a better place to first experience the thrill of being in the middle of a great symphony!  My younger one is working hard on this year’s Fling music.

 

We’re very grateful to Norman and Jenny, the Sooke Philharmonic Society, orchestra members and the community of Sooke for fifteen years of wonderful music and memories.

 

 

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Five Talented Young Finalists Make One Exciting Evening
It was an impressive field of candidates with strengths that ranged from flashy pyrotechnics to the sweetly musical, but at the end of the night on April 27th, it was Keaton Ollech who walked away with first prize. Second prize went to Ceilidh Briscoe.
Ollech, who is fifteen and studies with May Ling Kwok, wowed the audience with his performance of the first Beethoven piano concerto, Opus 15. He will perform the Beethoven with the Sooke Philharmonic at our October concerts, and takes home $500.
Briscoe, who played the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219, receives $300.
Cash prizes are courtesy of Long & McQuade.
This year’s jury was composed of David Stratkauskas, who leads the Victoria Children’s Choir—Apprentice Choir, as well as working as an organist and jazz musician; Dolores Vann, from Gabriola Island, who has a distinguished career as a violinist; and David Watson, our Principal French Horn, who is also a choir director and organist.
While the jury was deliberating, members of the audience were invited to vote for the young performers, and the audience had its own opinion. A total of 42 ballots were cast. People were asked to rank their top three favorites. When these votes were weighted and tallied, Blythe Allers had secured the top spot with his performance of the virtuosic Violin Concerto in E minor by Julius Conus. Keaton Ollech was in second place, and Ethan Allers secured third place with the Shostakovich cello concerto. Ceilidh Briscoe and Lucy Zhang placed fourth. Zhang played the Mozart piano concerto No.12, K.414.
The audience was invited to make comments, which you will see below the excellent performers’ photos, snapped by Michael Nyikes.
Of course the jury’s decision is the important one, but the audience choice ballots remind us of the subjective element in any artistic competition. All the young musicians who played on Saturday were impressive — no one present would have argued with that.
It was a delightful evening and it went very smoothly, organized by a team of Sooke Philharmonic performers and board members, who are always ready to support the next generation of musicians. The audience, too, was a mix of musicians and SPO volunteers, and of course the competitors’ family and supporters.

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Ceilidh Briscoe – lovely legato… shows love and mastery of her instrument

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Ethan Allers – great performance of a difficult piece

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Keaton Ollech – such poise …. a joy to watch and listen to such talent

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Lucy Zhang – slow movement took my breath away

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Blythe Allers – gutsy, nervy feel to the playing… thrilling!

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Norman and a few friends at Journey Middle School

Norman Nelson and the Diamond Jubilee medal:
More than just showing up.

Any musician will tell you there is a lot of work involved in his or her trade. First of all, time and effort in large quantities are needed to before you have mastered the skills you will need. Then you have to turn up for the variety of gigs you are lucky enough to line up. You will also need to teach your instrument in order to make ends meet. These are the facts of any musician’s life. It’s pretty full, especially if that’s how you make your living.
Norman Nelson, our esteemed maestro, has done a lot more than that.
Admittedly, he is a master musician, though it’s rumoured that he did have to learn, just like any mortal. He has had a long, illustrious career, as you can read in any Sooke Orchestra programme. However, he never paused at what is the usual life path, even for a first-class player.
Fast forward to fifteen years ago, when Norman and Jenny moved to Sooke. Any other musician with his C.V. would have said to himself: “I know plenty of people in the Victoria music world. I’ll ring up a few, and see what’s happening. I can do a little playing, maybe even a little conducting. There are several orchestras in Victoria, I believe. I suppose I can give a lesson or two.”
Not Norman. He decided to set up his own orchestra, and did – in Sooke. And it’s a great success. People come from far and wide, begging to play with him. Norman is very good at getting the best from each player, and of course, he’s a tremendous musician. Not only did he set up the orchestra—he added a week-long chamber music workshop, to share his own passion for and expertise in string ensemble playing. Then a concerto competition, to encourage all those hard-working, talented youngsters who would love nothing more than to play with an orchestra. Next, mentoring youngsters at the Sooke middle school, which was lucky enough to attract a music teacher able to get a music programme happening there.
All this did not come about solely through Norman’s own efforts. At each step of the way, people joined in to help, whether as volunteers or musicians or teachers, or supporters. But it was Norman and his wife Jenny who always put in the most work and who had the good ideas.
On December 1st Randall Garrison will be presenting Norman with the Diamond Jubilee medal. Other Esquimault-Juan de Fuca recipients are people who have served in fire prevention, search and rescue, and social activism. Chief Planes and Elida Peers each got one. Norman is the only artist in the bunch. Did he get it for playing the violin? We don’t think so. It was the incredible work he has done creating this great community of musicians, supported by Sooke, and all the wonderful music that is being enjoyed in Sooke, Metchosin, and Victoria.

Congratulations, Norman, from all of us!

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Alice Haekyo Lee

photo Michael Nyikes

Alice Haekyo Lee, our October soloist, recently made time in her busy New York schedule to answer a few questions we sent her.

Alice, of course, won our hearts at the Don Chrysler Concerto Competition last spring, with her wonderful performance of the Saint-Saens violin concerto.

She is in New York enrolled in the Julliard Saturday school, and in case you don’t have time to look it up for yourself, below is what Julliard says about the program:

The Juilliard Pre-College Division is a program for students of elementary through high school age who exhibit the talent, potential, and accomplishment to pursue a career in music.

The curriculum includes weekly lessons in the major field, chamber music, and classes in music theory and ear training. Additional electives are offered in areas such as composition, music history, conducting, and other specialized topics.  Students are given ample opportunities in solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts.

Here are Alice’s remarks:

High Notes: How are you liking New York? How do you live, have you rented an apartment?

Alice: New York is really really really really really really awesome!!! And although my mom doesn’t like it as much as I do because New York is really crowded, I love it. I really like tall modern buildings and lots of lights and technology and colors and people and shops.

The only bad thing to me is that New York is really smelly, especially in the morning because all the garbage is put out in front of the restaurants.

But even though New York is so awesome, I still miss Victoria a lot! 

Hopefully by the end of this week, we’ll be able to go into our apartment (we’ve been staying for almost three weeks in hotels and home stays)

We have rented an apartment right across from Manhattan in New Jersey, and although we haven’t moved into it yet, we have been in it, and the view is fantastic because our windows face the city. 

H.N. Do you have siblings, and are they with you there?

Alice: I have an older brother who is 11 years older than me. He’s in San Francisco right now.

H.N. Which school did you attend in Victoria?

Alice: I used to go to St. Michaels University School, and then I switched to home schooling for middle school, so I have a lot of time for practicing violin.

H.N. Tell us about Julliard.

Alice: Juilliard is awesome as awesome can get. The outside of the building is made out of glass and is very modern looking while the inside is more worn down. Almost every hallway has students walking up and down searching for their classroom or talking with their friends or standing against the walls waiting for their classes. The thing I like most about Juilliard is that everyone has the same kind of passion that I have and I feel more like a normal person, when at school (or anywhere) I felt a bit lonely because everyone was talking about the latest pop star or video game and I wouldn’t have any idea what they were talking about. Even though after I have finished my classes on Saturday (pre-college is only on Saturday) and I think I’m going to drop from exhaustion, I really like Juilliard, just like the way I really like New York. 

H.N. Are there other students your age?

Alice: There are a lot of students who are my age (which is 12) and all of them are really good. 

I’m really looking forward in working with the orchestra!!!!! I will be returning to Victoria on October 22nd to rehearse for the concert.

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Jim Warner, Spring 2011

Dear Friends
By now, most of us in the orchestra have been notified of Jim Warner’s death and we are stunned and, of course, at a loss as to how to get our thoughts together. A few of us have been fortunate enough to have known Jim since those very first tentative rehearsals in the St. Rose of Lima Church basement when 14 or so of us simply prayed that Beethoven’s mind was elsewhere. That was back in 1997 and now here we are, a very few years later, and hundreds of dedicated lovers of music – whether players and colleagues, volunteers, board members or just audience members – have had the pleasure of hearing Jim’s lovely playing over and over again as the programs have slipped by and the concert seasons come and gone. I simply can’t say much more, except to anticipate the feelings that we all surely must feel – and say what a privilege it has been to have rejoiced with him in all his enthusiasm after a rewarding concert and shared his agonies beforehand in having to deal with all those wretched reeds. So – no worries now Jim, and my baton is still in C major, as you always pointed out …
Norman

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Above: The Chorus in 2010

This coming weekend, the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus joins the Sooke Philharmonic Chamber Players in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Join us on Saturday, March 31st, at the Sooke Baptist Church at 8pm, or Sunday April 1st at the New St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin at 2:30 pm, for a programme of work by this terrific seventeenth-century English composer.
(more…)

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