Let there be no doubt; Christmas is here, thanks to the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and its ringing concert full of seasonal classics.
From the charmingly decorated theatre to Reynold Epp’s festively lit tuba, it was an evening of good spirited fun, lush arrangements and excellent playing.
Under the baton of Dennis Colpitts (who is taking care of the orchestra while Maestra Rosemary Thomson is conducting the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), the Okanagan Symphony shone with unified sound and excellent ensemble work. In his introduction, Colpitts remarked that the concert’s theme was about memories: some past which would be evoked by the playing of familiar songs, and some new which would be created that evening.
The concert opened with Leroy Anderson’s Christmas Festival. This work was written in 1950 and in Anderson’s own words, he “… rather took the themes and built you might say a concert overture, around the Christmas songs.” The result is an engaging work arranged in Anderson’s inimitable style.
Keeping with the wintry mood, the next selection was Emile Waldteufel’s classic Skater’s Waltz. In the tradition of Johann Strauss, the orchestra swept along, effortlessly gliding through harmonies, melodies and key-changes from one section to the next. There was no doubt more than one member of the audience who relived fond memories of skating to this music.
At this point, featured artist Robert Fine made his appearance. While Fine is the City of Kelowna’s director of business and entrepreneurial development, he has the soul of a musician. His easy stage presence and confident style showed he is an accomplished performer. No surprise that he won the Frank Sinatra song contest in Atlantic City. Fine crooned his way through a number of arrangements of classic seasonal songs. Of particular note was a beautiful setting of Do you Hear What I Hear arranged by pianist Carol Colpitts who also accompanied Fine in her arrangement of I’ll be Home for Christmas and The Christmas Song, (also known as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).
The highlight of the concert was undoubtedly the orchestra’s rendition of Mannheim Steamroller’s Stille Nacht. Featuring artfully placed special spotlights on cellist Audrey King and pianist Carol Colpitts, this was a thought-provoking and hauntingly beautiful arrangement.
Further memorable treats were Deck the Hall Variations which included a grand orchestral fugue, Christmas at the Movies featuring many tunes we’ve come to associate with Christmas, and that ageless classic Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, complete with neighing horse thanks to first trumpet player Jim Howie. And of course, what OSO Christmas offering would be complete without its traditional sing-along? With Robert Fine leading the way, the audience belted its way through White Christmas, The First Noel and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. It’s always nice to head out into the cold and starry night with a good song in your throat and a heart warmed with excellent music. Congratulations to the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra for creating an evening of memories which will not soon be forgotten.
Anita Perry has written works for orchestra, concert band, ballets and musicals. She currently teaches piano in Summerland.