For the fourth time, I took part in the Okanagan School of the Arts’ annual “Strings the Thing” (July 10 to 14) held at the Shatford Centre.
A five-day immersion in classical and popular music for string-instrument players, the program is composed of chamber groups and orchestra for the adults (from early teens to mid-70s) and classical music, fiddling, and composition for the younger students (6-12ish). In addition, Rosemary Thompson the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor for the camp’s adult orchestra, held a 30-minute choral session each afternoon for all students and faculty.
Friday afternoon, we students showcased the pieces we’d learned during the week at a recital, ending with the adult orchestra in which the younger students took part for two pieces; one was Haydn’s Toy Symphony with the children accompanying us players on the requisite toys. Sound like a marathon? Well, it is, and also exhilarating, instructive, exhausting, and great fun.
Making music together and learning from top instructors in a collegial atmosphere are primary reasons I keep coming back. The faculty members are central to making the week the experience it is with their enthusiasm, professionalism, sense of fun, and acceptance of a wide variety of skill levels. Calvin Dyck and Joel Stobbe come from Abbtotsford and Liz Lupton, John Suderman and Sandra Wilmot are members of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra; all are teachers and performers in their own right as well. This year too, the young local composer, Wynn Nordlund, assisted the lucky youth group in music composition.
And then, of course, there was the faculty concert in support of the program Wednesday evening in Penticton and Thursday in Kelowna, an event not to be missed. Along with classical chamber works, this year featured a commissioned composition by Wynn Nordlund, with him at the piano, as well as the always-anticipated musical ‘jokes’ which the players enjoy performing as much as the audience does listening.
In concert with the centre staff’s friendly and efficient management of the event — hats off in particular to Faith Greenwood and Jane Shaak — Strings the Thing is a most inspiring and enjoyable way to start the summer for anyone who enjoys playing a string instrument with like-minded people. I look forward to it again in 2018.