By Fiona Maureen
The Northern Orchestra came together 14 years ago. There was a need for an amateur orchestra, and as Concertmaster of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra, Gordon Lucas took it on and started with a mix of students and amateur adults. They’ve kept this model ever since. Gordon is the Artistic Director of the Northern Orchestra and he also teaches violin and cello to students in Vanderhoof.
They’ve grown to be the top amateur orchestra in the North. “We’re now the premier teaching, learning and performing group in the region. I am very proud of the level of music we take on. We have a great deal of fun and at the same time would certainly be considered a very respectable amateur orchestra anywhere for sure” says Gordon.
The Northern Orchestra is unique in that its membership is from both Vanderhoof and Prince George. “Combining students and players from both Prince George and Vanderhoof really works for us. We have weekly rehearsals in both places. Concert weekends are busy with two performances, one on Saturday in P.G. and the other on Sunday in Vanderhoof.
The two orchestra groups meshed from the very beginning. They compliment each other very well. Any part that is missing in the one is covered in the other, so together the sum of the two parts comes together into a full sounding whole.
Every concert has a different theme or repertoire. “The program for the recent ‘Summer Daze’ concert was perfectly balanced. First we played Vivaldi’s cello concerto in G minor for two cellos and strings. Soloists Rebeka and Kian introduced the concerto to the audience, and explained the appropriateness of the female soloists, as Vivaldi taught at his music school for orphaned girls” says Thea.
Following Vivaldi was Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz, performed ‘concert’ style. When they play this at the upcoming Strauss Ball, Gordon will conduct the waltz for the dancers, so the meter will be strict and more suitable for dancing.
Gordon Lucas explains the music choice for the last concert. “It was a bit more in the light classical vein, with the Blue Danube Waltz and one of Bizet’s ‘Carmen Suites’ providing a popular foil to the more serious moods of the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony #8 and the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto. A few of my own arrangements of some violin showpieces, played in unison by the entire first violin section accompanied by the orchestra, rounded out the festivities.”
At the start of the second half Mr. Lucas described how Beethoven’s musical genius developed despite his imminent hearing loss. Our orchestra will be performing the other three movements over the first three concerts of next concert season.
Kian Draper and Rebecka Ens were the two soloists. “They are two of the most solid young people I’ve ever met. Kian is a 3rd year Science student, studying biochemistry at UNBC in preparation for a career in medicine. She was a talent violinist and last year switched to the cello, an instrument she always wanted to play. Her progress has been remarkable. Rebecka is another real talent who has become a leader in the Northern Orchestra” says Gordon. “These two very different young women who, through their passion for cello, have become great friends. They share a remarkable affinity for music and a joie de vivre that is wonderful to see.”
Going forward there are some changes in store. “We will have a significantly new approach for next year. We have switched one full concert out for two new ‘Coffee Concerts’ which feature the orchestra members in solo pieces, chamber music, and smaller concertos. The Coffee Concerts are very informal, and the audience sit at tables with the musicians and intermingle, while having coffee, tea and goodies, watching and listening to the music – a musical soiree.”
The concept was experimental this year, and it proved really popular with both the musicians and public. “The audience and support we get from Vanderhoof is always fantastic” says Gordon.
Thea Doyle adds “Members of the Northern Orchestra and our guest players from the Prince George Symphony appreciate this community for its continued support, as music comes to life when shared.”
Thinking of learning a classical instrument? The Northern Orchestra are happy to welcome new members any time. “The orchestra has had beginners of all ages join and grow with us. We especially like to encourage more people to come out to our concerts – it’s best to play for a full audience” says Thea.
Rehearsals are Monday evenings in P.G. and in Vanderhoof on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. The orchestra season runs parallel to the school year, typically finishing up with a season finale end of May.
Information about concerts, events and ticket sales is on their Facebook page ‘Northern Orchestra of British Columbia’ and their website www.northernorchestra.ca. The best deal is to get season tickets.