White Rock Community Orchestra keeps on growing

The White Rock Community Orchestra is achieving a much higher profile these days.

Founded some 30 years ago, the ensemble has grown both in size and the ambition of its players, according to Roger Wecker, now in his third year as director of the group.

“At the time I joined, there were about 25 members,” he said. “Now there are about 35 to 40 people.”

Local audiences will be able to hear how far the orchestra has progressed tonight (Friday, May 13) at 7 p.m. at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 2350 148 St.

In addition to the orchestra, the concert will include the Trio Lumina (violin, cello and piano) and Mark Awan (organ).

The orchestra, which has a regular schedule of perfomances at seniors residences and other venues in the Lower Mainland – and was featured in last winter’s Christmas On The Peninsula event in White Rock – is always on the lookout for new players, particularly in the string, bass and brass sections, Wecker said.

The friendly ensemble rehearses every Saturday morning from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Masonic Hall.

Range of ages for the highly inclusive group goes from high school students to 93, he said, and many members are either revisiting earlier musical skills later in life, or fulfilling unrealized ambitions to play an instrument.

“It’s not a pressure thing,” said Wecker, a former piano accompanist and retired school band teacher.“People are there for enjoyment – the whole idea is to go in and make as much music as you can, and improve as much as you can. There’s no high pressure or hissy-fits.”

But the current players – “a really nice, nice group” has been surprising itself with its growing capabilities, Wecker said.

A measure of its ambition is the repertoire for the upcoming concert which includes the overture to Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance (in honour of the orchestra’s late cellist Wally Sandvoss) to such challenging material as an excerpt from Brahms’ Symphony No. 5, a bravura march from Wagner’s Tannhauser, the subtle dynamics of selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, the idiomatic lilt of a couple of tango pieces and the rhythmic, “exposed” harmonies of Aaron Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody.

“I choose the pieces, but a lot of this comes from suggestions from people in the orchestra,” Wecker said.

Tickets ($10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 12) are available at the door or by calling 604-536-8527.