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Off we start with the “Lord of the Rings” Symphonic Suite, with high school string players from SD #61 and #62 in our midst. Young string players who probably know more about the likes of Melker, Gandalf and the Witch-King of Angmar, than most of the rest of us. A fitting commencement to a musical evening of Dark Lords, Wizards, Witches, Kings, Queens and Emperors… particularly Emperors.

Our soloist, Masahiro Miyauchi at the Concerto Competition. photo: Michael Nyikes

Our soloist, Masahiro Miyauchi at the Concerto Competition.
photo: Michael Nyikes

Masahiro Miyauchi…[aka "Mitchy" at Vic High School ], has been known, since childhood for hours of piano playing and building castles… Lego castles that is. Castles fit for an Emperor. When the piano lid lifts skyward, there will be Mitchy to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 in E Flat, the “Emperor”.
Named the” Emperor” by an officer in Buonaparte’s army besieging Vienna in May 1809, Beethoven, after fleeing cannon balls, completed his Piano Concerto at his brother’s place, also in Vienna. Dodging cannon balls was probably one reason why Beethoven wasn’t too keen to honor Napoleon with a Piano Concerto.
Imperial, magnificent and splendiferous are not inappropriate descriptions of this concerto and Masahiro, considering his age, justifies this description through his rendering.

The Man
“Now he will become a tyrant like all the others”, raged Beethoven in 1804, as he ripped off the title page from the score of Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major. Now here’s a Symphony breaking new ground… expressive; gigantic in scale; profound… heroic by original intent with the hero disregarded. By 1806 for the first public performance the title page read “Composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”.
Orchestral musicians consider the Eroica profoundly challenging. As if a battle is raging… all the instruments battling… musical cannon balls flung around with menacing intent… Napoleon losing his struggle with heroism.
Our very own Norman Nelson has a recollection of a performance recording of Eroica some few years ago. “One memorable occasion not easily forgotten, occurred during the London Symphony’s recording session of the work with, I believe, Solti conducting. The towering first movement, on average 14 minutes of glorious slog… was finally rehearsed enough to put on disc, and so we gave it our best. After the mandatory 5 seconds of silence in the hall, we all relaxed and began reaching for the cigarettes, when a familiar voice came over the speaker from the recording room with the shattering question… “Are you ready to record now?”

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If you receive alerts about new posts on SPOtlight in your email inbox, you may be confused about the Saturday concert. We showed the date as June 29th by mistake.

The concert at the Community Hall will take place on June 28th, Saturday night, at 7:30.

The High School is closed because of the strike.

We apologise for the mistake.

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The ongoing labour dispute between the teachers and the province has made the High School a no-go zone for the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra.

We hope you will enjoy the June 28th concert in the new venue!

Sooke Community Hall
2037 Shields Rd
The community hall is opposite the Legion on Eustace Rd and across from Mom’s Café.
Concert time is unchanged, at 7:30 p.m.

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Like a party!

Bela Bartok

Bela Bartok, 1881-1945

The Sooke Philharmonic is playing the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra June 28th (Sooke) and June 29th (Victoria).
Here is what Norman Nelson, Sooke Philharmonic conductor, has to say:

“The Bartok a big, extravagant piece of writing. I have played it many times and it’s something I always wanted to conduct. To say that the work is difficult is an understatement. The virtuoso writing for the winds in particular will show our excellent players at their very best. I can’t wait.”

A big piece indeed. In addition to large string sections, the Concerto calls for a full complement of every kind of woodwind and brass, including tuba, plus tympanis and a percussion section that includes tam tam and side drum. Oh, and two harps. Although it is not often performed, it is greatly enjoyed by audiences. The piece has everything. It moves between subtle colours and delicate atmospherics to wild exuberance and raucous laughter, foot-stomping dance rhythms and the cold fingers of death.
Bartok wrote the Concerto in the last years of his life, and it is so full, you can almost imagine it as a whole life passing before your (his) eyes. It could also be a party, perhaps a fantastical party with strange masked guests, who drink and play games and reminisce their way through the light night of the summer solstice.
You are invited to our party! Come and listen to one of Bartok’s greatest works! The orchestra will be unusually large to accommodate Bartok’s extravagant writing. Some of the best amateur musicians in Victoria, Vancouver and Edmonton will be joining the usual Sooke Phil players, delighted with a chance to play this challenging and rewarding work.
The well-known Egmont Overture by Beethoven will open the evening. Alice Haekyo Lee will play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

Some of the musicians joining us for this unusual concert are listed below.


Yasuko Eastman, violin (Victoria)
Studying chamber music with The Hungarian Quartet and the leader Zoltan Szekely over many years, Yasuko developed a keen interest in Bartok’s music. Hearing stories about Bartok and their friendship from Mr. and Mrs. Szekely, Yasuko feels close to Bartok in heart. Playing the Concerto for Orchestra is a dream come true for her, and she is grateful to Norman, who let her join Sooke Philharmonic for this concert.
Norman adds, “We worked together in Edmonton and of course in Sooke and Victoria, and I am delighted to be sharing the Bartok with her.”

2014-06-06 08.41.17

Valerie Sim, violin (Edmonton)
Valerie says:
I’m a scientist who practices medicine to support my music habit. The science? Mad cow disease. The medicine? Neurology. The music? Violin, piano, or whatever is in style!

I am thrilled to be playing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra for the first time and look forward to working with Norman Nelson, a true fan of Bartok.


Adrian Rys, cello (Edmonton)
Adrian wrote:
I am retired and my principal occupations are now family and music. I am Principal Cello in the Concordia Orchestra, a community orchestra in Edmonton. I love chamber music too and frequently attend the annual Sooke Harbour Chamber Music Workshop with other string musicians from Edmonton. Like many of the local Sooke Philharmonic players, we have benefited from superb coaching from Norman and his very able colleagues.


Carol Sperling, violin (Edmonton)
Retired from Human Resources from Alberta Government a year ago. Now I have more time to practise!! I play lots of music and enjoy life.
Member of Concordia College Symphony Orchestra, LaFolia Baroque Ensemble and look forward to playing with the Sooke Phil again. I see all the emails for sectionals and I wish I was there to partake for the extra details and rehearsals. Norman is challenging us to the fullest.
Really looking forward to it. Thanks for letting us be involved.


Heather Bergen

Heather Bergen, violin (Edmonton)

I am a violinist in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Alberta Baroque Ensemble. A fair number of years ago I finished both my Bachelor and Masters of Music, studying with Norman Nelson. I am coming to Sooke for a refresher course in love of music, of passion for the instrument, care in listening and playing together, of relaxing while playing (“or you might as well be a sheep farmer”) and the infinite number of other inexpressible things that make playing with Norman so magical.



Allan de Caen, viola (Edmonton)
Allan is a violist by hobby, and a pediatric intensive care doctor by profession. Music (orchestral and chamber) is his passion, and his escape from his “paying job”. He is very excited to be performing Bartok with his Vancouver Island friends.



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Kaori Otake, harp (Vancouver)
Ms. Kaori Otake has given solo recitals and concerto performances around the world. She graduated from Indiana University, the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She currently is a harp instructor at Capilano University, Chilliwack Academy of Music, and North Shore Conservatory of Music at Gloria Dei Church and resides in Vancouver.

She says, “The Bartok Concerto for Orchestra is very important orchestra repertoire for harpists. It is often required for orchestra auditions and I am very excited to be able to perform this piece with the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra.”


Please note that because of the labour dispute between teachers and province, the concert on Saturday the 28th, which was to have taken place at the EMCS theatre in Sooke, has been relocated to the Community Hall on Shields Road. Concert time will be 7:30.

The Sunday concert at Farquhar Auditorium at U Vic is unaffected and unchanged. John Horgan, our MLA, will be the MC!

Check the website for ticket information.

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Alice Haekyo Lee gave an unforgettable performance of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No.3 in October 2012, as the winner of the SPS Don Chrysler Concerto Competition. She will be back to play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto Op.35 with us June 28th in Sooke, and June 29th in Victoria. Alice was at Julliard for a season and is currently studying in Toronto.
This youngster is destined for great things — come listen to her again! Not only will you be in for a treat, you will be able to say you heard her when she was just beginning her brilliant career.
For our earlier interview with this wonderful youngster, scroll back to October, 2012.
Alice kindly took a few moments out from her busy schedule to answer SPOlight’s questions:
How is Toronto, do you like it as much as you loved New York?
Yes, I like Toronto. It’s is a milder version of New York in terms of the number of cars and people. Toronto is more involved with classical music than I expected, what with the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Toronto Symphony, which I heard last year with Itzhak Perlman playing Tchaikovsky concerto (and by the way it was FANTASTIC). There are many advanced students here like Juilliard, and many good teachers as well.

Tell us about your big music successes since we last heard you in October 2012.
Since it is my first year in Toronto I didn’t participate in any competitions, but I did play in some performances, including a master class for Midori, a performance in the Chan Centre in Vancouver, and a performance in Koerner Hall in Toronto. I will also play for the Midsummer Ball in Banff this summer.

Are you enjoying the Tchaikovsky?
Tchaikovsky has been one of my favourite concertos among Brahms, Sibelius, and others. Although the concerto is technically much harder than, for example, Saint Saens concerto no. 3, its melodies are very high-spirited and soaring, taking on many similar characteristics to ballet, which was Tchaikovsky’s strong point. I love trying to figure out what sort of dance each movement is, what type of character I should play for each phrase, and how to shape each bar.


PLEASE NOTE! The Sooke concert on Saturday, June 28th will be held at the Community Hall on Shields Road, at 7:30, and not at the high school in Sooke,  because of the labour dispute involving the teachers and the province.

The Sunday concert at U Vic is not affected and will be held as planned, at 7:30, at Farquhar Auditorium. The MLA for Juan de Fuca, John Horgan, will be the MC at the Sunday concert.

For full information, the Sooke Philharmonic website is at http://www.sookephil.ca

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“The young musicians just keep getting better and better!”


Six Young Musicians  All photos courtesy Michael Nuikes

Six Young Musicians
All photos courtesy Michael Nyikes

Another fascinating and moving Don Chrysler Concerto Competition has come and gone. Six young musicians put themselves on the line, and each wowed the substantial audience at the Philip T. Young Recital Hall on Saturday, April 26th.

The adjudicators had their work cut out

The adjudicators had their work cut out

The playing was stellar and the adjudicators had a difficult choice, but at the end of the evening, Jeanne Campbell (piano), Rebecca Hissen (clarinet) and Brian Yoon (cello) chose Masahiro Miyauchi as the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra October soloist, performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto No.5.

Masahiro Miyauchi at the piano

Masahiro Miyauchi at the piano

Second place was tied between Rae Gallimore, playing the Walton Viola Concerto, and Ashley Green, who played Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1.

Rae Gallimore played the Walton viola concerto

Rae Gallimore played the Walton viola concerto

Ashley Green played the Saint-Saens

Ashley Green played the Saint-Saens













Not unexpectedly, the audience had a different take. Audience members were given the chance to vote for their first, second and third choices. When the audience choice ballots were counted, it was Rae Gallimore who garnered the most votes. Masahiro Miyauchi was second, and Leo Phanichphant came third, with his performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Fifty-five ballots were received; the choices were weighted and tallied.

Leo Y Phanichpant played Mozart

Leo Y Phanichpant played Mozart

The other two young musicians were Ya-Ping Huang, performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1, and Hailey Phillips, who played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.4.

Ya-Ping Huang performed the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1

Ya-Ping Huang performed the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1

Hailey Phillips played the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4

Hailey Phillips played the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4

The audience choice ballots remind us that a juried prize is just that – the best judgment of the members of the jury. There is always room for discussion and other opinions, and this is what makes the Don Chrysler Competition such an interesting evening. No matter who is chosen as the winner, all the young musicians have our respect and admiration, not least for their willingness to step up and subject themselves to so much scrutiny and judgment.
To the competition finalists, we want to say this: You were all wonderful; we loved you all! We hope that you will remember your competition experience as a positive one in your musical lives!


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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,


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