In my roles as music director of Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and interim artistic director of Opera Kelowna, I have been spending a lot of time the past two months thinking about the fate of arts and culture and how our local, national and international organizations will manage this unprecedented time.
To me, the need for the power of arts and culture to reflect our humanity and to connect our communities has never been greater.
Of course, finding ways to be able to do this in a meaningful way, when safety prohibits us from gathering live and in person in large groups, presents us all with new challenges.
I have been in many discussions with colleagues in our community, across the province and the country, and it has inspired me to see the resilience and the creativity that has been generated.
I would like to share with you some of the initiatives that are on offer from some of our local organizations. I hope that you will seek out opportunities to connect and engage in these unique ways and that arts and culture will continue to offer support, hope and inspiration to our community as we all navigate this unparalleled world crisis. If you are able to, I also encourage you to consider a financial gift (tax receiptable) to help these treasures of our community remain sustainable into a glorious future.
Despite having to postpone the main stage performance of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte this August as well as our intensive training program for singers, Opera Kelowna is still planning to present OPUS — Opera Under the Stars — in partnership with UBC Okanagan in August. All precautions of safety will be in place and live streamed options will be available. More details to come.
As our team deliberated how we could offer music as solace to those most affected in this time of isolation, we thought that some of our most vulnerable people — seniors who are in residences and care homes where they might truly be cut off from friends and family — could especially benefit from the joy of live music. Sidewalk Serenades is a program that has been running for three weeks where a singer or two will offer arias from opera, operetta and musical theatre from the sidewalk on every side of a seniors building to those sheltered in their rooms. We have been overwhelmed by the response and will continue this initiative throughout the summer and into September.
To make a request for a Sidewalk Serenade, please fill out the request form on our website.
Check out some of our serenades on the Opera Kelowna Facebook page.
Simone Orlando, artistic director and CEO of Ballet Kelowna, let me know that the world premiere of Macbeth, Ballet Kelowna’s first full-length commissioned ballet that was to have been performed in May, has been postponed to a future date. This will be an amazing performance when it can happen. In the meantime, Ballet Kelowna is offering their In Motion adult ballet program online through Zoom until such time as gyms and fitness centres are able to reopen. This is a safe and creative way to keep some fitness in your life.
Simone also initiated a remote choreographic project. On their Facebook page you can see dancer Kurt Werner’s work in progress, And After This, Our Exile that he created remotely through Zoom.
Ballet Kelowna has a specific Appeal to the community as part of a $30,000 matching campaign through to June 30, 2020. Please consider a contribution through their web site or by calling 250-762-6105.
Kelowna Art Gallery
Kelowna Art Gallery is a wonderful, eclectic space with programs for everyone. I often took my kids to their amazing, accessible Sunday afternoon drop-in classes. If you have never been to this beautiful space, I hope you will as soon as they open again.
When I asked executive director Nataley Nagy how they are managing in this temporary shut down, she posed this question to me, “How do you share a visual art installation with an audience that isn’t able to come and see it?”
Slipstream, created by Guelph-based interdisciplinary artist Jenn E. Norton, is an immersive video installation that relies on large monitors, mirrors, and interaction to tell its story. The only problem is that it has never been open to the public. Everyone at KAG is looking forward to the time when they can open the doors again, but in the meantime encourages you to visit their newsletter to whet your appetite for the in-person experience.
Kelowna Museums Society
The Kelowna Museums Society encompasses five different buildings and offers diverse programs that connect us to the rich culture and heritage of our beautiful valley. I have spent hours lost in their intriguing exhibits and fun engagement activities that are great for all ages.
Executive director Linda Digby shared the following strategies with me.
“After the initial shock, Kelowna Museums Society completely pivoted museum programming. For families who crave fun ways to learn together — and something new to talk about at dinner — the Live at the Museum series presents live virtual programs that provoke new interest in the place we live. The fun mini-programs probe questions like, did dinosaurs live in the Okanagan? What was it like to live in Kelowna during epidemics in the past? How did Kelowna get its name? In addition, museum staff are supporting schools with virtual guided field excursions that bring teachers and students working from home together in the museum gallery. In addition, the museums social media platforms are rich with engaging content that helps people of all ages connect with the place they live, even while sheltering at home.
“What stands out to me is the resilience and dedication demonstrated by museum staff across all departments. Even while reeling under new stresses in their own lives, they rallied, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Staff picked up digital tools they didn’t even know existed previous to the pandemic and learned how to use these tools to work from a distance, increase the scope of their creative collaboration and serve the public in new ways.”
Okanagan Symphony Orchestra
The OSO recently cancelled both the final weekend performances of our Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO) and our professional OSO. Last weekend should have seen our stages full for a glorious performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9- featuring the famous “Ode to Joy” with the OSO and OSO Chorus.
This concert was to mark the end of our 60th anniversary season, and while we were all quite devastated that we had to cancel these shows, we remain so grateful for the support of this community over the past 60 years.
Everyone at OSO is grateful to an anonymous donor who pledged $60,000 to a matching campaign to end this season on May 31. As we grew past the total to $75,000, this same donor increased their commitment to $100,000.
We hope that you will consider a contribution towards this campaign to help us navigate the extra demands that we are facing in this time of uncertainty.
For our 2020-21 season, we are considering various possibilities. In the meantime, we invite you all to join us for a new online series entitled From Our Home to Yours.
Our professional musicians are so accomplished on their instruments and share their gifts with music that brings them comfort in this challenging time. It is quite special to get to hear these musicians individually and we very much look forward to the time that we can all gather on stage again.
Arts and culture can help to keep communities thriving, to offer inspiration in challenging times and keep us all strong in spirit. I hope that you will seek out connection to one of these treasures of the Okanagan or the many other cultural jewels that we are lucky to have here. I wish you all safe passage through this tumultuous time and look forward to the time that we can share glorious music, dance, art, and culture in person again.
Rosemary Thomson is music director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and interim artistic director of Opera Kelowna. Her column appears regularly.