Saturday’s waterfront concert by the White Rock City Orchestra was a great season-ender for the ensemble and a harbinger of better days ahead for live music of all kinds in the city.
After days of clouds and rain, the sun broke through just in time for the free lunchtime concert, co-presented at Memorial Park by the City of White Rock and White Rock Museum and Archives, and boosted attendance for the event, the first in-person concert by the orchestra in more than two years.
And it gave a lively account of what MC Bevin van Liempt described as “a small taste” of the repertoire of the orchestra, which blends professionals and volunteer amateurs, and now stands at some 30 members after a COVID-era low of 15.
The mix of classical and light classical standards, plus some movie score music, seemed to strike the right note with an appreciative seated audience, but also passersby on the promenade, who stopped, listened and lingered.
“There were 150 chairs put out on the plaza and they were all full,” WRCO maestra Paula DeWit noted.
“But there were a lot of other people standing around and listening – I’d say there were around 250 people in total who listened to the concert.
“It was awesome with so many people there – the atmosphere was magical.”
Contributing to that magic was guest violin soloist Luna Li who joined the orchestra in the bird trill-influenced Spring movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerto.
Very mature and self-possessed for her eight years, the diminutive Li – a student of concert master Monika Niedzielko – acquitted herself admirably in the piece.
“And she watched me (conducting) all the way through,” DeWit said. “I was very impressed.”
The orchestra, which had to cancel its 2020 Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah due to COVID restrictions, and has been making videos since, marked its reappearance on the live scene with the the bravura Entrance of the Gladiators by Czech composer Fucik, Schubert’s March Militaire, and the famous Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss II.
Two South American tangos – El Choclo and La Comparsita (featured in a previous city-funded WRCO video) were joined by Luigi Denza’s rhapsodic version of his famed tarantella Funiculi-Funicula.
Rounding out the program was a suitably atmospheric and idiomatic rendering of a suite of themes from Klaus Bedelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean score.
WRCO rehearsal’s will resume in the fall, preparing for the Dec. 3 Christmas Concert at White Rock Baptist Church featuring up and coming ‘popera’ trio The Volare Tenors – recently highlighted on Canada’s Got Talent.
“They recently received a grant for someone to arrange charts for them to perform with an orchestra, so I expect we’ll be giving some of those a first try-out,” DeWit said.
She reaffirmed that the orchestra is always looking for new members from the community – provided they have at least a Grade 6 Toronto Conservatory level mastery of their instrument (for more information, check the website at wrco.ca – the website also has information on how to donate to the orchestra.)
DeWit said she is particularly heartened by the reception the orchestra received on Saturday.
“I feel like White Rock really supports their orchestra, both financially and with people attending,” she added.