The Sooke Philarmonic Orchestra has a vigorous program in store for audience members attending their concerts this month in Colwood and Sooke.

Musical magic of symphony coming to the West Shore

Sooke Philarmonic Orchestra makes first stop at Royal Bay

West Shore residents can look forward to an evening of romance and enchantment, courtesy of the Sooke Philarmonic Orchestra, at two Midsummer Magic concerts next week.

Founded in 1997, the orchestra has grown to include more than 60 musicians and boasts four programs each year, along with the well-attended Philharmonic Fling and other community events. The Sooke Phil, as the group is affectionately called, was established by Norman Nelson who continues to lead the community orchestra.

Maestro Nelson has carefully curated a program of music – which includes Mendelssohn, Strauss, and Elgar – to be performed Saturday, June 18 at the new Royal Bay secondary’s state-of-the-art Teechamitsa Theatre. The concert will open with excerpts from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was written to accompany Shakespeare’s play.

“I first played the Mendelssohn when I was 20 and in my first orchestra, the London Philharmonic,” Nelson said. “It never failed to win audiences over at the start of programs. It is a light and pleasingly frothy piece and leaves everybody in a pleasant, happy mood.”

These selections will include the “Overture,” a masterful sonata noted for its instrumental effects which capture the scuttling fairy feet and braying of Bottom, a man turned donkey.

Mendelssohn prodigiously completed the opening number, originally a concert overture, in 1826 at the age of 17. He included it in the 14-piece program when he was commissioned to write music for the Shakespearean play 16 years later.

The “Overture” will be followed by the “Scherzo,” then audiences can look forward to a familiar composition, Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”

Mendelssohn’s magical and playful arrangements will lead into the impressive “Horn Concerto No. 1 in E Flat” by German composer Richard Strauss. Completed in 1883, the concerto is comprised of three fluid movements and is one of the most challenging solo compositions for the horn, with its quick variations between the highest and lowest registers on the instrument.

Guest soloist Alana Despins, principal horn with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, will be sure to amaze audiences with her performance.

“The piece is guaranteed to charm all those who hear it,” Nelson said.

The evening will conclude with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” Each of the 14 variations acts as a musical sketch of the English composer’s friends and relations. Like a portrait of an individual, each piece creates an impression of the subject’s personality or musically references a habit or memorable event.

Nelson admitted, “there hasn’t been a single performance of Nimrod when I haven’t had to choke back the tears and there have been hundreds, both playing and conducting.”

On Friday June 17, the concert will be performed at the Sooke Community Hall, followed by Saturday’s performance at Royal Bay. Start times for both shows is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at sookephil.ca.

Kristi Hoffmann’s column appears courtesy of the West Shore Arts Council.

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