This weekend, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) presented Themes and Innovations, the second in its stellar Masterworks series in celebration of its 60th year.
The concert opened with Ralph Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. For this performance, Maestra Rosemary Thomson created two string orchestras: one on risers and another on stage. The OSO performed superbly, each phrase beautifully sculpted and played with exquisite sensitivity. So moved were they by the performance, that several seconds passed in hushed and reverent silence before the audience burst into applause.
Next came the highlight and the most innovative part of the evening, Mark Haney’s concerto for double bass, Placentia Bay: Summer of 1941 inspired by a secret World War II meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. It was clear that every note was heartfelt and honest—a tribute to soloist Meaghan Williams as well as Haney’s colleagues in the orchestra.
Haney painted an evocative picture using his intimate knowledge of the orchestra and William’s brilliant technique. Williams coaxed all manner of sounds from her double bass, from shimmering harmonics to growling 16th note passages and special effects produced by the use of a guitar capo. In both the second and third movements, Maestra Thomson sang a beautiful melodic line while simultaneously conducting the orchestra—a truly innovative touch.
After intermission, the OSO performed Edward Elgar’s popular Enigma Variations.
Here, the OSO shone with excellent ensemble work. Entries were clean and lines were skillfully contoured. For the iconic Nimrod variation, Maestra Thomson eschewed her baton to conduct the piece with her hands, directing the intent and emotion with balletic grace.
Of note is the fact that the OSO’s next concert will be a festive performance of Handel’s Messiah—a Christmas tradition that is not to be missed!
Anita Perry has written works for orchestra, concert band, ballets and musicals. She currently teaches piano in Summerland.
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