Colleen Venables, a 15-year-old violinist from Armstrong, has been invited to participate in the 10-day Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition and Festival at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing this April.
One of 20 participants in the junior section chosen from over 200 applicants from 28 countries, she is the only representative of Canada.
As well as developing her musical abilities and advancing her career, this trip to China will give Venables a unique opportunity to explore her roots.
Venables’ mother, Jan, is Chinese by birth and grew up in the ancient city of Xi’an, the eastern terminal of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Warriors that guarded the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang over 2,000 years ago.
Jan will accompany Colleen to Beijing and once the competition and related activities are over, the two will stay on for a few extra days so the young violinist can meet her extended family. (Xi’an is a mere 1,200 kilometres and 11 hours by train from Beijing.)
Venables says it will be her first trip to her mother’s homeland and she looks forward to enjoying its beauty and history as well as “fine-tuning” her Chinese. She’ll also renew friendships with fellow participants, many of whom she knows through previous international events.
Of course, all this will cost money – in the region of $8,000 to $10,000. So Sparkling Hill’s manager, Hans-Peter Mayr, has offered the resort’s Austria Ballroom for a benefit concert organized by Sylvie Lange of World of Music.
An accomplished viola player and member of the Okanagan Symphony, Lange will also participate in the concert, titled An Evening Amongst the Stars, taking place Thursday.
Among those performing will be world renowned violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, playing her Guarneri del Gesu violin. Celebrated soprano Melina Moore will sing, and multi-talented Okanagan Symphony music director Rosemary Thomson will emcee and play piano. The lineup will be completed by cellist Audrey King, pianist Arnold Draper and, of course, Venables.
In acknowledging the generosity of the event sponsors and the artists who have all donated their professional services, Venables says, “I’m really grateful to everyone. And I’m grateful to my teachers and my parents who have done so much for me.”
Jan beams and says Venables will have a chance to attend master classes with the adjudicators, as well as perform and exchange ideas with some of the finest young musicians in the world. Both agree that this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
A favourite item in the repertoire Colleen will perform in Beijing will be a three-minute improvisation based on an assigned phrase of music. She loves to improvise jazz with her father and sister, and says she might be persuaded to improvise on a theme suggested by the audience at the Sparkling Hill concert.
Whatever the program, which already includes works by Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Bach, the evening is bound to be spectacular, with all proceeds funding Venables’ journey towards an outstanding career.
Tickets for An Evening Amongst the Stars, at the Sparkling Hill Wellness Resort, Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m., are available at the door or in advance via email: Great.Music@shaw.ca.