First published May 26, 2016 Written by Sarah Haxby
How do all those musicians end up in the gym?
The West Coast Symphony is an extraordinarily generous group of people: did you know that all sixty-five plus musicians and their helpers all donate their time? For over a decade they have travelled to Bowen Island twice per year at their own expense with their formal attire and valuable instruments and volunteer for what amounts to an entire day’s worth of their time, plus all their time practicing! They do it just to share their love of music with our community in a unique format that is by donation and therefore is accessible for all ages. It’s wonderful to see grandparents, parents and children of all ages enjoying the experience of live music. There’s nothing quite like live music: watching the musicians play and work together to create incredibly moving soundscapes.
The West Coast symphony exemplifies the virtues of cooperation, teamwork, respect and discipline as they all work together under the direction of various conductors that have included guest children from the audience! The upcoming summer concert for the community is 2pm, Sunday June 12th at BICS and features: Malcolm Forsyth: Jubilee Overture; Elizabeth Knudson: Blueprint: Concerto for Jazz Trio (World Premiere); Aaron Copland: Rodeo Suite (Four Dance Episodes); Georges Gershwin: American in Paris and Bujar Llapaj, Conductor.
The tradition of affordable by-donation concerts for the community, held biannually, is made possible by a network of community support; with BICS, as the island’s community school and hub bringing all the elements together. Also, it helps that one of the musician’s family is on Bowen! The Community School Coordinator organizes the many elements of the event to ensure a success for all, including: providing local p.r. support, connecting community youth and BICS students to the event, inviting the seniors at S.K.Y., writing articles, preparing the rental forms, invoice forms and connecting the WCS to the Community School Association (CSA). The CSA is the local sponsor/supporter of this event by assisting with the rental costs and providing volunteers and at-cost hospitality concession. Extraordinary volunteer Yvonne McSkimming will once again be baking goodies for the concession including carrot cake, scones, and her famous butter tarts.
The West Coast Symphony Concerts for the Community series is a unique opportunity to directly experience affordable classical music with a full symphony of over sixty musicians twice a year. It is also one of the few musical opportunities for parents with young children to hear classical music in an open-door venue that allows for quick exits if needed, or a quick break on the playground outside before returning to the show. Despite the ability to pop out during the middle of the show, most people of all ages stayed in their seats and the Symphony are generally impressed by the level of respectful concert-etiquette by the youngest audience members and the warm, appreciative community reception from Bowen Island that keeps the Symphony wanting to return.
The generosity and humour of the West Coast Symphony is exemplified by their performances, which always includes at least one funny surprise in amongst the repertoire. The West Coast Symphony musicians get much joy from seeing multiple generations in the audience, all sitting together, and are delighted by how many students and youth attend the concerts. It is great to see parents bringing babies and young children and teaching them audience etiquette and enjoyment of the music. It’s hard not to smile when a two year old is dancing and smiling and feeling the music!
The Bowen Island Community School gym is currently the only space on the island large enough for the symphony and the two hundred or so audience members who come out to hear them play. Despite that the gym vents blow when they have to and sometime people are shouting and playing outside whilst the symphony plays in the gym… the show goes on and the WCS are understanding. Despite the imperfections of playing in a gym every concert goes well and everyone is smiling at the end.
The WCS greatly appreciates the support of our Bowen island community. Every year they go through a democratic process to decide where they will play in the upcoming seasons, and as Bowen gets a 100% positive response from the musicians, so we hope that this tradition, with your support, will continue.
The West Coast Symphony collects donations at the door, and have cds mugs and merchandise (please bring cash/cheques,) to help cover their costs as a symphony because sheet music, insurance, etc. all add up, but the musicians themselves don’t get paid; their music is a gift to us from each of them, so please thank them when you come to the concert which starts at 2pm in the BICS gym on Sunday June 12th!