White Rock Chamber Music celebrates its 40th year this Saturday with a concert in its new regular venue at Crescent Gardens Retirement Community.
As always, the emphasis is on quality and listenability – as well as giving an opportunity to young and developing performers – with a program that will include Sarona Mynhardt’s Women’s Kitchen Choir (a side venture for the White Rock Children’s Choir founder), violinist April Lee and pianist Kate Lee, well-known local soprano Miriah Reitmeier and young pianists Phillip and Caroline Lee.
Admission to the events, held the second Saturday of each month from October to May, is still by a suggested donation of $5, with proceeds going to the Peninsula Arts Foundation, which provides scholarships for youth on the Semiahmoo Peninsula .
From a modest beginning as a small group of musicians performing in each others’ homes, the non-profit organization has evolved into a concert series offering performance exposure for both talented amateurs and professional musicians, according to co-ordinators and organizers Ellen Neal and Sharon Jones.
Participants span all age groups and styles of music, ranging from vocal, string and piano soloists to small instrumental ensembles.
The first programs, according to a 1979 article by Mary Gillis, were held in 1972 in the Stayte Road home of Peter Krack.
The inspiring and influential Krack was able to persuade all kinds of musicians to participate, including pianist Hannah Verkerk and her husband, flautist Jan.
When Krack moved out of the area, the Verkerks revived the idea with a series of musical soirees in their home. These became so popular that they were augmented with a series of evening programs every two weeks co-ordinated by pianist Ruth Scuse at what was then the Station Arts Centre on Marine Drive (now the White Rock Museum and Archives).
When the noise of passing trains became too disruptive, White Rock Chamber Music sought other venues, which have since included the Peninsula Estates clubhouse, Whitecliff Retirement Residence, and, for the last six years, Pacific Carlton.
The tone of the concerts has also changed, Neal and Jones recall.
Baritone Colin Mason, has appeared frequently in the concerts since the mid 1980s, when he was singing with the Vancouver Opera. He remembers that when he first performed with White Rock Chamber Music he was told one of his favourite pieces, the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II classic Old Man River, wasn’t classical enough to be included in the program.
Since that time, Mason’s rendition of Old Man River has become an audience favourite, and while classical instrumentals are still a major feature of the concerts, they have also been augmented by light opera, jazz and even dance.
The upcoming Christmas program, on Dec. 8 at Crescent Gardens, offers a special treat, as 10 young singers, speakers and instrumentalists will present A Child’s Christmas in Wales, based on the famous Dylan Thomas piece.
Crescent Gardens is located at 1222 King George Blvd. (next to Pacific Inn). Showtime Nov. 10 is 7:30 p.m.