Okanagan Symphony Orchestra rings in the season in Penticton

Children, parents and grandparents streamed into the foyer of Penticton’s Cleland Theatre where the Fiddle Kidz were playing Celtic tunes.

Okanagan Symphony conductor Rosemary Thomson rehearses with the orchestra.

Concert review by Roswitha Masson

Last Friday’s Okanagan Symphony concert, Ringing in the Season, had family appeal. Children, parents and grandparents streamed into the foyer of Penticton’s Cleland Theatre where the Fiddle Kids, a group of young violinists founded by Liz Lupton and Ron Wall, were playing Celtic tunes.

In the auditorium the people scrambled to find their seats. The hall was packed when the lights dimmed. The stage looked Christmasy with festively decorated music stands and long tables displaying the shining bells of the Okanagan Hand Bell Chorus.

Conductor Rosemary Thomson appeared in an elegant gold and black blouse and jacket and introduced the first piece, Zum Lauten by Bachmann. The Hand Bell Chorus joined the orchestra for Behnke’s Hark! Christmas Bells. The 12 ringers were busy as the elves in Santa’s workshop as they picked up, swung, tapped or struck the bells with mallets. They quickly exchanged them as each pitch required a different bell. The sound was angelic and pure; it put peace back into Christmas. The Hand Bell Chorus also played Ward’s Night of Silence which featured choir chimes, long instruments with a gentle, sustained ring. OSO flautist Christine Moore played a descant line on flute, which beautifully complemented the bells.

As customary at OSO Christmas concerts, the audience joined in with the orchestra and the Hand Bell Chorus in a number of favourite songs, including It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, What Child is This, Silent Night, Jingle Bells and Joy to the World.

Baker’s lighthearted One Magic Christmas Suite No. 2 had delicate piano, piccolo and glockenspiel timbres with tambourine rhythms and muted trumpet riffs.

Percussionist and composer Bruce Henczel dazzled with the performance of his Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra. With four mallets in his hands he played with rich dynamic nuances, trills and breathtaking scale and arpeggio passages. He interpreted What Child is This in a Spanish style, We Three Kings in a Bulgarian seven-eight metre and The Little Drummer Boy with box drum and African djambe rhythms.

Also on the program was McKechnie’s Go Tell it On The Mountain, Tchaikovsky’s Trepak from Nutcracker and Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.

This concert had the perfect music to get into a Christmas mood.


Roswitha Masson is a local musician and symphony enthusiast.