–– Ed note: This week, The Morning Star features a look back at the origins of the Vernon Performing Arts Centre and how it has become a hub for the vibrant arts and culture scene in our community, as well as a look ahead to the upcoming season. This first story is about the centre’s 10th annual Birthday Bash, taking place next Saturday.
It started with an idea to bring world-class performances to our humble city, and that idea has flourished into a building artists, and the general community, can be proud of.
Yes, the Vernon Performing Arts Centre is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this coming week.
In a vision that actually took form in 1991, with the formation of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society, the theatre was raised from the ground, and on Oct. 1. 2001, was opened with a grand gala attended by its founders, dignitaries, including the then lieutenant governor of B.C., and the community at large.
Since then, the society has presented countless dance, music, theatre, and children’s performances, and has rented out the building to countless other international, national and local groups that have brought in audiences from far and wide, across the valley and beyond.
And it doesn’t stop there.
To mark the centre’s momentous 10-year anniversary, the society is hosting a grand affair, complete with displays, special announcements, 1,000 cupcakes, and a lively concert by Victoria’s Ford Seven Swing and Show Band.
“We are going to have a walk down memory lane, showing some of the original storyboards and photographs of activities and fundraisers we held even before the theatre was built,” said the Performing Arts Centre’s executive director Pamela Burns Resch.
“Many of our wonderful volunteers have been instrumental in propelling this project forward… It’s going to be a party and a lovely opportunity for the community to celebrate their efforts and what has become of the centre.”
The Ford Seven features powerhouse vocals, riveting instrumentals, and a wonderful richness as they deliver their “big band” style jazz and swing. They offer a blend of vocal and instrumental tunes that will usher the audience through more than three decades of song, including the music of Ray Charles, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter.
On the repertoire are such classics as Too Darn Hot, Someone to Watch Over Me, Route 66, Blue Skies, What’ll I Do, Hit That Jive Jack, Hallelujah I Just Love Him So, Jump, Jive and Wail and Sweet Georgia Brown.
“The thing about booking this band is that it is in keeping with the flavour of our 10-year celebration,” said Burns Resch. “Although they are not a large group, they have that big-band feel and have a classy approach. It’ll be a celebration of music that appeals to our community and will be classic and sophisticated and lots fun.”
The Ford Seven includes a roster of seasoned and established musicians from the Victoria area, all of whom perform regularly together and with other bands. The band consists of Don Leppard on drums, Joey Smith on bass, Heather Burns on piano, Dave Flello on horns, and vocalists Chris Newstead, Fran Bitonti, and Angela Ireland Ford.
“Heather Burns, who plays piano in the group, produced the Forever Plaid show that came here in October, 2009 and she is involved in the B.C. arts community as a musician and arranger,” said Burns Resch, adding bassist Smith was at the Performing Arts Centre when the North Okanagan Community Concert Association presented the Marc Atkinson Trio as part of its season last year.
“He is also well respected.”
The Vernon Performing Arts Centre’s 10th annual Birthday Bash, featuring The Ford Seven, takes place Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35/adult, $32/senior, $30/student and $5/eyeGO, with discounts available for members of Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society, at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.