Okanagan Symphony shares seats with young counterparts Sunday

Armstrong violinist Colleen Venables returns to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre stage to perform for YSO’s 25th birthday bash.

Armstrong violinist and former Youth Symphony of the Okanagan member Colleen Venables performs  Chausson’s Poéme for Violin and Orchestra at the Okanagan Symphony’s Birthday Bash

Armstrong violinist and former Youth Symphony of the Okanagan member Colleen Venables performs Chausson’s Poéme for Violin and Orchestra at the Okanagan Symphony’s Birthday Bash

Players from both the Okanagan Symphony and its Youth Symphony Orchestra are joining bows, woodwinds, brass and percussion at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday for the YSO’s 25th anniversary Birthday Bash.

To mark the milestone, Rosemary Thomson, conductor of both symphonies, is leading 115 musicians on the stage to perform a celebratory repertoire that includes a piece especially commissioned for the occasion.

Written by celebrated Coldstream composer Imant Raminsh, a violinist with the OSO and founder of the youth orchestra, the Festive Overture should lead the festivities with a bang.

“It’s a joyful one, with the sound of strings, trumpets, whiz-bangs, and firecrackers,” Raminsh told The Morning Star recently. “It’s better than anything in Harry Potter. Sparks will fly from the end of violin bows.”

It’s been two years since the youth symphony came under the umbrella of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

Now led by Thomson and Dennis Colpitts, the YSO continues to tap into Raminsh’s knowledge and hosting this side-by-side concert with the OSO members and teaching sessions have made a world of difference for the young musicians. As well, it brings a youthful inspiration to those teaching, said Thomson.

“When they have the leadership of the professional musicians, especially in the side-by-side situations, their own level rises immediately,” she said, “It is just a joy and a thrill to see how the YSO level is raised just simply by having the members in the room.”

One of those musicians is violinist Colleen Venables, who will be the guest artist at tonight’s performance.

The Armstrong native will perform Chausson’s Poéme for Violin and Orchestra.

The Grade 12 student is currently not playing with the symphony on a full-time basis because her schedule is so busy. She continues to study in the Mount Royal University Conservatory’s program for gifted youth in Calgary and performs as a soloist and with orchestras around western Canada.

She also continues to compete in major international competitions and received a second place finish at the International Stradivarius Competition held earlier this year in Salt Lake City. She also took first prize at the 2012 Canadian National Music Festival and participated in the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition  with the worlds best young soloists in Beijing, China last year.

Venables has played with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and the youth symphony as a section member and has appeared three times as a soloist with the OSO since she was nine years old.

“I haven’t seen another student this successful. She is really a prodigy,” said Thomson.

The OSO’s program will also feature Saint Saens arr. Ysaye Etude en form de Valse, Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

“The beauty of orchestra, especially hearing orchestra live is the combination of hearing so many acoustic instruments. You can’t recreate that in an electronic format so having all those bodies on stage creating sound together is a magical experience,” said Thomson. “It is not only hearing it, you feel it too. It is very visceral.”

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra Birthday Bash Masterworks concert takes the stage Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Tickets are on sale at www.ticketseller.ca or can be purchased at the box office one hour before the performance. A pre-concert talk with Thomson also takes place one hour before the performance.