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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.



F12_blue dress_IMG_3441-01

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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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
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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