New Vernon club is an ‘Ode to Joy’ for composers

Composer/pianist Arne Sahlén believes that a little support can inspire creativity, whether writing alone or in a group. That’s why he has decided to start the Okanagan Composer Club here in Vernon.

Arne Sahlén

Arne Sahlén

History books have written about Beethoven’s loneliness as he succumbed to deafness in the latter part of his life. But he still managed to write one of his greatest works, his Ninth Symphony, during that time.

Whether it was the solitude, or the destitution, that inspired him, composer/pianist Arne Sahlén believes that a little support can inspire creativity, whether writing alone or in a group. That’s why he has decided to start the Okanagan Composer Club here in Vernon.

“My secret wish is for Vernon to be a kind of hub for composer activity and support; to build a sense of community among developing composers, and to help them feel inspired and stimulated to keep going,” said Sahlén, who recently moved to Vernon from Kimberley, and now teaches theory and piano at the Vernon Community Music School (VCMS).

A peer group, the club is for all ages: songwriters, composers, librettists, musicians, basically anyone who creates music.

There will examples and ideas on all kinds of music, from classical to popular, with a focus on Canadian composition, as well as reviews on form, themes and hooks, and sample entries and comments from composition event entries, as well as discussions on long-term composing goals.

“This is more of a club than a training program. Instead of instruction, we will provide support and guidance in the spirit of composing. I’m eager and excited to do it,” said Sahlén.

A Prince Rupert native, Sahlén’s musical background runs the gamut from being a classically-trained pianist to judging composing competitions. He has composed for piano (one, two, and four hands) as well as voice, handbell choir and more in a variety of styles.

He has a passion for all kinds of music including jazz, ragtime, and Cambodian traditional folk music. (He is the founding member of a Cambodian support group and has been to the southeast Asian country numerous times.)

“I even like metal,” he said. “I like being exposed to all kinds of music. I don’t want to back anyone into a corner. It’s good if we can break down borders and write all kinds of music.”

Sahlén was inspired to start the club after attending numerous music festivals around the country as both an adjudicator and music teacher.

“These young composers would be up there competing, and would be told by the adjudicator to ‘find their own voice’ and ‘make it their own’ and that would be it. There would be nothing beyond that,” he said. “Instead I feel everyone owns their own piece of music. Nobody can tell you what’s right or wrong. It’s not up to us to change it. Instead we can show support and creative suggestions and show what they can do. It’s all about esteem… Even Beethoven didn’t write perfect music all the time.”

The club’s first activity is a meet and greet this weekend at the VCMS’ historical Smith House, located atop Vernon’s East Hill.

“We hope to get people of all ages and musical backgrounds out,” said Sahlén. “The meet and greet is an introduction. We will see who gets involved and this will direct the direction we will eventually take.”

The Okanagan Composer Club meet and greet takes place at the Vernon Community Music School’s Smith House recital room, 1705-32nd Ave., Saturday at 10 a.m. or Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 and sessions run approximately 75 to 90 minutes.

Sahlén will also perform in the concert, Piano Music 4-1-2-4 Hands, with Hannah Jukes at the VCMS Carriage House Loft, beside the Smith House, Sunday at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students/seniors.

For information about the club and concert, phone 250-545-4977 or email composersclub@live.ca.