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qathet region musicians form symphony orchestra

“I was standing there with my mouth open and my heart stopped, thinking this will be the shortest living orchestra.” ~ qathet Symphony Orchestra founder Marlene Chamberlain
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GETTING STARTED: qathet Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kevin Wilson, is working on a number of classical pieces during its practice sessions at Stardusters Square Dance Hall. The orchestra is looking for new members and hopes to have its first public performance this year.

qathet Symphony Orchestra has been formed to create a permanent home for musicians dedicated to symphonic music.

Orchestra founder Marlene Chamberlain said she has been able to attract musicians since posting an invitation at Powell River Academy of Music. The orchestra is open to musicians 10 years of age and upward.

Chamberlain said she was inspired to start the orchestra after attending a music camp, run by the West Coast Amateur Musicians Society in Squamish. While there she met some musicians who were playing in Roberts Creek on the Sechelt Peninsula.

“They had invited myself and some friends down to play with them,” said Chamberlain. “I learned that when they started, they had five musicians. They are now up to over 50; they have four conductors, they have a youth orchestra and I thought, ‘why can’t we do that in Powell River?’

“I didn’t do anything for two years until I contacted conductor Arthur Arnold this year. He was fantastic. He was so encouraging and helped a lot. He came out and played at our first play day to introduce the orchestra to the community. He actually phoned me from the Netherlands to say he would be here for the play day. How neat was that?”

While the orchestra has its foundation in place, Chamberlain, a clarinetist, is hoping to expand on the number of instrumentalists. She said she thinks it will take a couple of years to achieve the vision she has for the orchestra, which is seeking people who can play the following instruments: violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, trumpet, French horn, bassoon, percussion, trombone, tuba, piccolo and oboe.

Chamberlain said she remembers and loves the community band but there is no outlet for musicians who play stringed instruments.

“It’s not like we are in competition because they are two different entities,” said Chamberlain. “I hope it takes off, I really do. It would be great to have an orchestra in Powell River.”

Chamberlain said the success of Pacific Region International Summer Music Association (PRISMA) demonstrates an appreciation in this region for orchestral music, but she said she knows the community appreciates all kinds of music.

Chamberlain said the orchestra has been practising for nine weeks and some of the members had never played with another person. She said if they practice hard, perhaps a public performance can be planned as the last session in 2022. Plans are to go through until the end of May. She said the orchestra is working toward being able to perform publicly, otherwise “there’s no point.”

Conductor conundrum

The orchestra is conducted by Kevin Wilson. Chamberlain said she had interviewed another conductor and one was appointed, but he told Chamberlain he could not carry on because of unforeseen circumstances.

“I was standing there with my mouth open and my heart stopped, thinking this will be the shortest living orchestra,” said Chamberlain. “I contacted a number of people up and down the Sunshine Coast and in Comox, and then Kevin, who is a violin player, said he had a little bit of experience. He asked if we’d be willing to let him have a go just to carry us through and see what happens.

“It turns out it’s the making of him because he loves conducting. He has been marvellous with the group. So that was the obstacle and I didn’t know if we’d be carrying on. It looks like we will be able to carry on.”

The orchestra is already working on an extensive repertoire. Chamberlain said she initially had no music, but got in touch with a contact of Arnold’s who will be a new manager at PRISMA.

Chamberlain said the manager quickly put together a whole range of music for different instruments and different levels because the orchestra does not want to be restricted only to advanced musicians. Beginner and intermediate musicians are encouraged to join.

Chamberlain said the orchestra now has 12 different pieces of music and new pieces will be added; members are hoping to develop a wide repertoire. The orchestra is learning some recognizable classical scores that audiences will know and appreciate, she added.

Practices take place on Saturdays from 10 am to noon at Stardusters Square Dance Hall at 5399 Timberlane Avenue. Interested musicians can contact Chamberlain by email at qathetsymphonyorchestra@yahoo.com.