Set aside the never-ending summers with mid-October mornings fit for a short-sleeved T-shirt, and one finds there is big benefit to living in a golden valley like the Okanagan.
No, we’re not talking fantastic Chardonnay or picturesque walks by the lake. We’re talking about what it means to secure top-tier talent in intimate venues at affordable ticket prices.
“I think the sheer sound of hearing all those acoustic players together is really something for everyone,” said director Rosemary Thomson in a brief selection of performances designed to tease the 2012/2013 season.
Joining the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra this year, cellist Audrey King has chosen to make the area her first stop after retiring from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
King was born to a musically gifted family. Her grandmother was a pianist, and her grandfather and mother played the cello professionally.
Just the latest in a string of world-class talent to settle in this neck of the woods, she and a few other bright lights took to the Kelowna Community Theatre stage last week to bolster the OSO’s annual program reveal.
Serenading her audience with Penticton-based composer Arnold Draper tinkling the ivories, King’s strings proved the perfect prelude to a tremendous solo from opera singer and Candesca founder Alexandra Babble. And award-winning elementary school music teacher Rhonda Draper also found time to bring students from Glenmore Elementary to the stage to showcase some of the work they will be doing with the orchestra in this year’s program.
Music aside, it would appear the orchestra has finally struck a chord on the financial end as well with an administration capable of adapting to tight, if at times stifling, financial times in the arts sector.
At this time last year, the OSO used this same announcement to unveil a new funding schematic intended to reduce dependency on grant funding.
The provincial government severely curtailed gaming grants in 2010 and the OSO took one of the larger hits in the Okanagan arts community, receiving only 25 per cent of what it normally would draw.
Money continues to be an issue for the 52-year-old orchestra—the third largest professional symphony in the province— but general manager Scott Wilson said a manageable fundraising program is now making modest headway on improving the orchestra’s financial outlook and helped ensure the symphony finished 2011 in the black.
Breaking from their traditional gala format, the organization’s business minds decided to present several fundraising evenings last year and recently brought on local marketing expert Christina Ferreira to drive campaign efforts.
And if this week’s season reveal is any indication, it should be an easy sell.
Thomson continues to push the boundaries of creativity, opening with some of her own favourite music of all time, including Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss.
“The OSO’s 2012/13 season is rich with a variety of music. Music that will move us with its beauty, its elegance, its humour and its virtuosity,” she said.
In addition to working with the Glenmore school choir, the OSO has partnered with Bumbershoot Theatre, the Okanagan Youth Symphony and the brand new Okanagan Symphony Youth Chorus for the program.
The annual February family concert will showcase the OSO’s take on Peter and the Wolf and the final concert in May, Last Night of the Proms, features soprano Dawn Mussellam.
The season opens in Vernon with Transformations Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Centre. Along with Strauss, the OSO will perform Randolph Peters’ Butterfly Wings and Tropical Storms and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Pastorale.
Information can be found at www.okanagansymphony.com. Tickets can be purchased at the Ticket Seller box office at 250-549-7469 or online at www.ticketseller.ca.
–– Jennifer Smith is the arts and culture reporter with the Kelowna Capital News.