New Work by Sooke Composer and Soloist in March 22/23 Sooke Philharmonic Concerts

Strife and Harmony is the theme of the Sooke Philharmonic concerts Sat. March 22 at 7:30 PM (Sooke Baptist Church) and Sun. March 23 at 2:30 PM (New St. Mary’s Church, Metchosin), marking the 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I. The program consists of the Mass in Time of War by Haydn, with the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus; Song of Flanders by Sooke composer Brent Straughan, with Sooke’s own soprano Nancy Washeim; The Lark Ascending for violin and orchestra by Vaughan Williams, with soloist Ceilidh Briscoe; and Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio/Agnues Dei, performed by chorus and orchestra.

This is an exciting concert for Straughan, who will also be playing in the second violin section, and whose first musical love is composing. He is glad to be able to contribute to the memory of that “first” terrible war. “I had an uncle in Victoria who lied about his age at 17 to become a stretcher bearer at the battle of Vimy in 1917,” he said.Brent_Straughan

Straughan started his composing early. “I can recall at age two, in Mayerthorpe Alberta, regularly getting out my mother’s pots and pans from under the oven and happily thrashing them about,” Straughan said.

He has grown musically since then. Song of Flanders, written for a large choir, soloists and full orchestra, has been recorded with the Philharmonica Bulgarica Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Valeri Vatchev. Canadian soloists Megan Skidmore, soprano, and Bill Kelly, bass, were added to the mix. This recording is available on Apple iTunes® and came in 5th “in the world” at the Just Plain Folks music awards in Nashville. “People like it, because they can hum bits of it. It makes sense. There is something anyone can take home from it in their head,” Straughan told us.

The March concerts will be the first time the work is performed live in Canada. The well-known Sooke soprano, Nancy Washeim, is a featured soloist, joined by Tashi Meisami Farivar (mezzo soprano), Josh Lovell (tenor) and Nick Allen (bass).

Ceilidh Briscoe, the violin soloist in The Lark Ascending, was the 2nd prize winner in the Sooke Philharmonic Don Chrysler Concerto Competition for Young Musicians in April 2013. This work, inspired by George Meredith’s poem by the same name, was written at the beginning of the “Great War” and is a favourite with audiences everywhere.

Tickets are available online at, at the door, and at the usual Sooke/Metchosin outlets.

New St. Mary’s Church is located at 4125 Metchosin Road. Sooke Baptist Church is at 7110 West Coast Road.

— Submitted by Sonja de Wit


Sooke Secret Garden Tour (Sunday!)

June 3, 2012 – Join the Sooke Secret Garden Tour on Sunday – The tickets will be available on the day of the event (June 3) at the Sooke Secret Garden Tour Kiosk at the Saseenos School and at Shoppers Drug Mart in the Evergreen Plaza in Sooke.

More information at

And the winner is…

Alice Haekyo Lee has carried off the first prize at this year’s Don Chrysler Concerto Competition. Saturday night at Philip Young Hall, at U Vic, she wowed the jury and the audience with a wonderful performance of Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3.

Alice Haekyo Lee shows her stuff Continue reading

An interview with Jim Stubbs our Trumpet soloist

The Stubbs Trio

Our February soloist is Jim Stubbs, who will be playing the Haydn trumpet concerto. Jim played with the Metropolitan Opera for about twenty-five years. Yes, in New York. When you are at the concert this February 19th in Sooke, or February 20th in Metchosin, don’t miss his biography. There’s a lot in there! The New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (Russia), LaScala and the Bruckner Orchestra, Lenz — and that’s just a start.

How did this busy professional land in the Gulf Islands?

That was our first question to Jim, when we recently had a chance to talk to him.

He said that he knew of the existence of the Canadian west coast (not all New Yorkers do) through two adult children of his, who knew the region and had been to Victoria.

Back in New York, Jim and Laurie, his wife, a professional bassoon player, spent a lot of their time in the car, getting to rehearsals, getting to concerts. Although they lived just across the river, on the New Jersey side, they would have to leave home an hour or an hour and a half before down beat, to be on time. Jim names traffic as one of the big stressors of life in the city. Also, he was a very busy man, as his biography fully attests.

One day Laurie Stubbs Googled Saltspring, and liked the alternative look of the Island: organic farms, sheep, plenty of artists. She liked that it’s built on a rock. Next, she Googled condos. Three and a half years ago, the Stubbs arrived, with son Matthew, then 11, and daughter Sarah, then 15, ready to try something completely different.

Jim says he is pleased his children have experienced both New York and Saltspring, two contrasting lifestyles.

Jim has done more than sit on the Ganges dock and watch the tide go in and out. Together with Laurie and Matthew, who is a pianist, he founded the Saltspring Chamber Players, which has presented a variety of interesting work, from Stravinsky to all six Brandenburgs, to solo piano works, presented by Matthew.

Jim tells us that he often put together informal concerts in New York City, for reasons as varied as fundraising for immigration lawyers, to playing for the homeless. In New York City, he says, it’s always easy to find people who are willing to play.

Another of his Saltspring endeavours is Bach on the Rock, a chamber choir and 

chamber orchestra, which gives combined concerts twice a year together. They are doing Elijah, this spring; they have done the Christmas Oratorio. The orchestra also performs on its own and recently played the Haffner Symphony;

We know opera fans wouldn’t forgive us if we failed to ask about his twenty-five years at the Met. He tells us he enjoyed playing on stage and did it many times. He played herald trumpet, an instrument that looks like the trumpets in Egyptian hieroglyphs: long, straight and narrow. Usually they have a flag of some kind hanging down.  At the Met, they are used on stage in a number of productions such as Aida and Lohengrin. He also played in the Meistersingers, Carmen, and the one onstage trumpet note in The Magic Flute

For the Haydn concerto, Jim will be using a relatively small E-flat trumpet. The work was originally scored for clarina, a kind of keyed woodwind, which had (it is assumed) the elegance and flexibility of a woodwind instrument, and which makes it a challenge to perform on the trumpet.

Jim is more than up to it. We have already enjoyed his playing in the Christmas Oratorio and the Messiah.

Sooke: EMCS at 8:00 on Saturday, February 19th .

Metchosin: New St. Mary’s at 2:30 pm on Sunday February 20th.

See you there!

interview by Sonja de Wit of Sooke Phil High Notes

High Notes interviews Sooke Phil Messiah soloists

This weekend is Messiah weekend in Sooke and Metchosin.

Join us Saturday at Sooke Community Theatre at Edward Milne School,

or Sunday afternoon at New St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin.

Delwynne Windell, tenor, Sam Marcaccini, baritone, and Nancy Washeim, soprano, answered a few questions about this stirring work.

(contributed by Sonja deWit of Sooke Phil High Notes)



Delwynne Windell is a tenor soloist renowned for his meaningful, elegant, powerful, and emotionally stirring interpretations of oratorios with audiences in Victoria and Sooke. He is South African and has performed extensively on the African continent.


Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already?

This is not my first time singing Messiah. I have sung the tenor solo roles on 63 occasions.

Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite? Yes, the aria “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted” is a firm favourite of mine, together with the preceding recitative “Comfort ye,” which were quite poignant for audiences in Harare, Zimbabwe, most of whom, owing to socio-political crises, were hungry on that night and had no homes to which to return. Some approached me and mentioned that the words of these two pieces from Messiah are quite inspirational, uplifting, and encourage them in their faith to look ahead and hope for better times.

What makes these pieces so good?

Throughout Messiah Handel employs a technique called text painting, where the musical notes mimic the lines of text quite effectively. At KwaSizabantu Mission Station in South Africa, the Zulu speaking audience understood the chuckling effect of the word “exalted” in “Every Valley” and smiled back or chuckled with me. It was quite an energizing experience. Messiah has universal appeal, and the text-painting technique enables the text to cross the barriers of language and culture.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

Because of its powerful message, and the way its religious text can uplift the audience, clarity of diction throughout, from soloists to choir, is of prime importance. Messiah‘s message is also intimate, and musically this needs to be achieved  by taking some weight out of the sound, which is quite a challenge.

How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

The richness and variety of the music, the insightful matching of word and sound, and the consistently inspired evocations of such universal emotions as pathos, serenity, and joy. It is also a deeply satisfying work to perform, be the artists seasoned professionals or enthusiastic amateurs.

What is your next endeavour after this one?

Two performances of Mozart’s Requiem conducted by Wade Noble at Sooke on 9 April  and at Metchosin on 10 April.


Sam Marcaccini is a rising Canadian baritone born and raised on the West Coast. He is known for his rich, powerful voice and robust stage presence.


Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already?

This is my first full Messiah concert. I have sung parts of Messiah before, but have never performed the entire piece.  


Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite?

“The People That Walked in Darkness.” It is very moving to sing, and I really enjoy the interval changes throughout the passages.


What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

The biggest challenge is to sing with the original intent of the piece at all times and not get caught up in just singing the notes.


How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

Messiah is popular for many reasons. It is a beautifully composed piece that is very expressive and sensitive. It is also an annual tradition for many people during this season.


What is your next endeavour after this one?

I will be performing Messiah with the Vancouver Island Symphony in Nanaimo on 12 December. After that I will be singing the role of Father Christmas in the Mummers Masque with Saltwater Productions at St. Anne’s Academy. The piece is composed by Canadian Dean Burry and is centered on Maritime tradition during the holiday season. Come and see it on 16 and 17 December at 7:30 and on 18 and 19 at 2:30pm.


Nancy Washeim is well-known to Sooke and Victoria audiences, particularly for her sensitive Early Music performances.

Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already? Care to guess how many times? I have sung Handel’s Messiah ten times, and will be up to fourteen at the end of this season. 

Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite? I really love so many parts of Messiah. It is a very exciting experience to be part of. There are many wonderful choruses and meaningful arias, and there is beautiful orchestra writing. It’s pretty tough to pick a favourite and for me, it changes from year to year. I enjoy Handel’s word painting, how he brings the text to life in music.  Whenever I hear the Christmas story being read, I hear it as Handel wrote it.


What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

Accuracy. It is not an easy piece to sing. It takes a lot of practice. You really need to listen to everything that is going on around you. By the time a Messiah performance takes place, most voices are in great shape because of all the careful work that is done in preparation.  I remember hearing an interview with Bryn Terfel, and he said that he “works out in the gym of Handel and Mozart.” Messiah is a great workout.

How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

To me, it is something that stays current: the sentiment, the human condition, the hope and joy it expresses. It’s hard not to be moved, and to me the Christmas season would not be the same without it. It’s great to hear different interpretations, different tempos… each performance is slightly different. The energy changes. You can usually walk away singing at least one thing you heard. It really stays with you. Perhaps that is part of its great appeal.

What is your next endeavour after this one?

I’m looking forward to singing more Handel (Dixit Dominus) as well as Bach’s Cantata 198 (Trauerode) with the Victoria Philharmonic Choir and the Victoria Chamber Orchestra. I’m also looking forward to working with the Vancouver Handel Society and the Chilliwack Symphony in Spring 2011.

Celebration of young Artists

Philip Manning is this year’s Don Chrysler Concerto Competition winner, and we are looking forward to hearing him play Max Bruch’s wonderful First Violin Concerto in our concerts on 30 and 31 October.

This young man of eighteen has already had some notable successes. He told High Notes that, in particular, playing the Victoria Symphony Splash last summer was a unique experience—the outdoor venue, the beautiful August evening, the thousands of people everywhere on shore.

Philip has been playing the violin since he was six, when he began lessons with Carol McIsaac. His current teacher is Robert Skelton, of Mill Bay.

Philip was born in Victoria. His grandfather played clarinet and saxophone, and his mother plays piano. He has a younger brother who also plays piano.

He is a graduate of Lighthouse Academy and lives in Metchosin.

He enjoyed playing in a piano trio, Trio Tesoro, for three years,; in 2008 the three young musicians traveled to Edmonton to take part in the National Music Festival. At present he is attending Camosun College, taking a few non-music electives. He is interested in political science and intends to take a course in this subject in January. He plans to continue his post-secondary studies in music in September 2011.

Philip says he loves the Bruch (which doesn’t surprise us) and named the slow movement in particular as a musical jewel. That was what he played at the Symphony Splash.

We can’t promise you a beautiful evening along the waterfront, but we can promise a wonderful performance of an exciting work by an accomplished young musician

See you this coming Saturday in Sooke, and Sunday in Victoria.

No need to bring a blanket.

– contributed by Sonja deWit

Another Successful Wine Tour!

Those of you who came on The Sooke Philharmonic Wine Tour on Sunday Sept 26th will be pleased to know that as a Fund Raising Event, the Tour was very successful.

We raised a mighty $3,308.76 in total. The Silent Auction alone raised $1,349. Not bad considering we did not take credit cards and so all of you had to scrape your pockets and wallets for cash or in some cases get the wife to write a cheque!

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