Just over 70 years ago, some influential members of Vernon decided to form an association that would focus on bringing classical and world music and dance to the North Okanagan – the North Okanagan Community Concert Association (NOCCA). However, the only venue available was the Vernon School and there was no piano to speak of.
It was decided to sell memberships to provide a financial footing and to procure a piano worthy of world-class performers. For a centre of approximately 10,000 people, more than 1,000 memberships were sold and renewed on an ongoing basis.
In the fall of 1953, the first performer was Cuban-American pianist Jorge Bolet, who had the foresight to bring his own piano which he towed behind his vehicle.
Joey Karen, one of the founders of NOCCA, remembered that she was unable to attend the premiere as she was delivering her daughter at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, but did observe Bolet departing Vernon the next day heading south with his piano in tow.
But NOCCA needed a suitable piano.
On a trip to London, England, Dr. McMurtry of Vernon heard of a restored grand piano at the Steinway factory in Hamburg. After several telegrams and much discussion, it was decided to purchase the Steinway D9 concert grand originally built in 1886 and fully reconditioned in 1953.
Purchased in 1954 by NOCCA, the piano was then shipped by boat to Vancouver and then by train to Vernon, all for the monumental sum, including insurance and freight, of $3,231.
Over the past 70 years, NOCCA has presented and in some cases billeted and entertained both Canadian and international artists of note, from vocalists Lois Marshall and Ben Heppner to jazz combos such as the Joe Sealy Quartet and the Remi Bolduc Quintet. The Canadian Opera Company performed here as well as Ballet Jorgen and the New York Ballet. Choirs include the B.C. Boys Choir, Chor Leoni, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Chanticleer, Musica Intima, and Kokopelli with the University of Pretoria Youth Choir (all 120 of them).
Pianists Andre Laplante, Jamie Parker, Ian Parker and Jane Koop, ensembles Violons du Roi, the Orford String Quartet, the Canadian Brass, Quartetto Gelato and the Gryphon Trio with clarinetist James Campbell have all graced our presence with their talents.
NOCCA has presented folk artists like The Bills, the Mark Atkinson Trio, eclectic music from Van Django and Joe Trio, the sounds of harps, sitars and oude, solo flute, oboe, trumpet and bassoon and classical guitar as well as accordion.
In January 2016, NOCCA presented the North Okanagan Youth Showcase of Excellence for an afternoon of amazing entertainment with guest Emcee Ian Parker, young talented performers danced and played to the delight of everyone in attendance. NOCCA continues its promotion of our community’s music students by having them open on the PAC stage for each concert.
In October 2016, NOCCA received its “new” refurbished Steinway D9 concert grand that was formally introduced by pianist Ian Parker in a gala evening and concert. The highlight of the night was a duet performed by Parker on the new Steinway with his student, Jaeden Izik-Dzurko of Salmon Arm, on the outgoing piano.
NOCCA has survived many ups and downs over the years including competitive entertainment styles and venues as well as a devastating pandemic that affected all live performances.
But the future is bright as NOCCA welcomes a new decade of music with its opening concert on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre with the return of Izik-Dzurko for his first solo performance on NOCCA’s Steinway.