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Reviews of the
2023 - 2024 Season

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Dock Side Drive leads a toe-tapping trip down Memory Lane By Neville Bowman I went to a concert and wound up in a time machine, transported by the music to past decades of swing, bop and blues, then brought back with modern artists’ nods to those times.      The trip down Memory Lane came courtesy of Dock Side Drive, an eight-piece ensemble based in Victoria. With a focus on swing music of the 1940s to 1960s, the band closed out the Kelowna Community Concert Association’s 2023-24 season with familiar, feel-good tunes. Led by Heather Burns on piano, with a solid foundation from drummer Anita Bonkowski and bassist Ross Macdonald, the group did a great job of portraying the upbeat energy of those songs — music meant for dancing and feeling good. Paul Wainwright on sax and Dave Flello on trumpet and flugelhorn rounded out the band. Most of their song choices were vocally driven, and this was handled very nicely by Fran Bitonti, Chris Newstead and Angela Ireland. Each had his or her own voice, showcased in well-received solos, yet when they harmonized the sound was very reminiscent of the style of those eras. Heather Burns would add a fourth voice at times, creating a very full sound from the stage.      Most of the songs were familiar, with some pleasantly surprising arrangements mixed in with the classics. A standout for me was a melding of Blue Skies and What'll I Do, given a darker, more modal treatment. Dave Flello delivered a beautiful horn solo in this selection. Comes Love and Puttin' On the Ritz were great examples of having some fun with classic tunes, bringing a twist to the familiar.      For the most part, though, the band did not mess with a good thing. The songs (and the list was extensive; they ran out of time to play them all) were delivered true to what the audience would remember.  Indeed, it can be risky to fiddle too much with what people know. The whole presentation harkened back to those years, with the perceived innocence of the lyrics — which really weren't so innocent! Even the way the singers moved and dressed really felt like a time machine on stage.  I must give a nod to Dave Flello on trumpet, who never stopped moving and dancing, his energy entertaining the crowd for the whole show. There were times when the energy of the concert seemed lower than it should be, and I feel it was a sound issue. It was often louder than it needed to be, yet unbalanced. It's possible that where I was sitting (I tried a different place than usual) just had odd acoustic characteristics.  A huge shout out to the KCCA for having a gifted young musician open on piano for the show. Teia Kim played wonderfully, and KCCA generates two bursaries a year to help music students further their studies. Such things really do make a difference, and thanks to KCCA members for supporting young talent. As for Dock Side Drive, keep an eye out for them in future. And, if you go, be sure to take your dancing shoes! Neville Bowman is a local musician, actor and writer.

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Payadora: Extraordinarily talented individual musicians blend their sounds into an impressive and pleasing whole By Neville Bowman Some styles of music are instantly recognizable, eliciting an emotional response that, while individual, is undeniable. Blues, gospel, samba, reggae, and others can shift one's energy, within seconds of listening. Tango is one of those. Tango (and some of its musical cousins) is what I, and more than 800 members of the Kelowna Community Concert Association, had the pleasure of enjoying at Evangel Church. Presented to us with absolute precision by the quintet Payadora, the music had that beautiful, focused energy that one feels when a tango starts. There seems to be a continual stretching and compression within the music, both in emotion and timing, which the musicians navigated flawlessly. As a musician myself, it was very impressive. Right from the opening piece, we could hear that the musicianship was topnotch. All are multi - instrumentalists, with Rebekah Wolkstein on violin and vocals; Drew Jurecka playing bandoneon, violin and mandolin; Joseph Phillips on bass and acoustic guitar; and Clark Schaufele on piano and bass. Elbio Fernandez added his wonderful singing to some pieces. The evening flowed well, the variations in energy keeping it interesting. Instrumental numbers would vary from the traditional, such as Nostalgico, to the sublime in Ondas, and the almost manic with Locura, Skeedaddle and Tachero. The last three were original compositions, by Wolkstein and Jurecka, both of whom are excellent composers and arrangers. The technical mastery required at times was mind-boggling, yet never unmusical to my ears. When listening to music of other cultures, it seems that one thing we have lost in modern Western music is story telling. With tango, there is always a narrative and Fernandez is a very fine storyteller. Singing in Spanish to a mostly non-Spanish-speaking audience, he still conveyed a lot, and his personality endeared him to the crowd. Wolkstein added her voice at times, creating a nice back-and-forth, or a beautiful harmony. One piece in the second half, Cancion de las Simples Cosas, featured just Rebekah Wolkstein and the stunning guitar work of Joseph Phillips. It was a lovely moment to breathe before resuming the energy of the full ensemble. It was genuine pleasure listening to Payadora. Sometimes a collection of such capable individuals doesn't translate into a cohesive sound, but in this case the group generated a tight, yet flexible, sound that captivated the audience. I highly recommend catching them if they ever come back this way. And keep an eye out for the next KCCA concert season; it looks like it will be a fun and varied program, worth seeing! Neville Bowman is a local musician, actor and writer

The Fugitives Perform Ridge A Captivating Retelling of the Story of Vimy Ridge. By Len McFarlane KCCA President When Brendan McLeod told the story of the young Canadian men and boys, languishing in the dank squalor of the First World War trenches at Vimy Ridge, the musician, poet, narrator, and creator held an audience of 880 people in the palm of his hand. “You could have heard a pin drop during Brendan’s narrations,” said spectator Nicole Baer at the spellbinding stage show of Ridge, a piece of theatre art created by McLeod and performed by his widely-acclaimed group, The Fugitives. The piece was presented on Saturday, Nov. 18 by the Kelowna Community Concert Association. With spare staging and emotive lighting, the four talented performers tell the authentic story of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which raged for four days in April 1917 and left more than 10,000 Canadians dead or wounded. Poignant readings from soldiers’ letters alternate with McLeod’s gentle, thoughtful, sometimes humorous narration. Taken from songs sung in the trenches, the band’s melodies and arrangements underscore the emotional impact of Vimy. “The Fugitives' production of Ridge presents this famous battle through the eyes of the individual soldier, capturing the horror, futility and personal sacrifice in a very real and moving way,” said Michael Loewen, a Canadian veteran who has visited the Vimy Memorial in France. “Like many others in the audience, I was moved to tears.” McLeod’s deeply researched storytelling opened many eyes to a history that differs in significant ways from the official narrative about this famous battle that formed the young nation of Canada. “I learned many things from this concert that I was not aware of, such as the treatment by our government of those young men, during and after the war,” said attendee Caroline Price. “This group of exceptional musicians should be seen in every high school in our country.” An acoustic folk-roots group formed in 2007 and based in East Vancouver, The Fugitives have amassed a JUNO nomination, as well as numerous nominations in the Canadian Folk Music Awards and Western Canadian Music Awards. In 2019, their album The Promise of Strangers was honoured as Best Folk Album by the German Record Critics Award. In 2020, the group created Ridge, which was named a “Top Arts Pick of the Year” by The Globe and Mail. It has been presented at more than 30 theatres across Canada. The Fugitives’ performance of Ridge was the third of five concerts of the KCCA’s 2023-2024 concert season. With the concerts now being presented at the Evangel Church Auditorium, a much larger venue than in the past, the KCCA is offering membership passes for the remaining two events for a pro-rated price of $60, with special discounts for students.

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Bach to the Future: Charm, humour and staggering musical chops By Lyndsey Wong On October 28th, the Kelowna Community Concert Association brought us “Bach To The Future”, a quartet based in St. Louis and Nashville. As the name implies, Bach was indeed represented (actually, two of them), as were Beethoven and Liszt. Standard fare for the KCCA demographic, right?  Think again!  When the ensemble stepped on stage with cellphones in hand, filming the crowd for their “Bach-umentary” (and their pianist in a hoodie with a keytar), I knew it was going to be very different from any concert I had attended before. Michael Silverman, keyboardist, pianist and composer, has a résumé any musician would envy. With 14 number-one albums across various genres, music in hundreds of film and television productions, and six billion downloads and streams across various platforms, he remains the most downloaded solo pianist in the world. He and his brother, Rob Silverman, an accomplished drummer and educator, have founded several music festivals, including the Chesterfield Wine and Jazz Festival, the University City Jazz Festival, and the St. Louis Winter Jazz Festival. In addition to being one of the most downloaded solo percussionists, Rob is the author of several best-selling drum set instructional books.  In 2007, the pair founded Autumn Hill Records and have recorded more than 900 albums of their own, in addition to those of countless other artists. It seems they have played with everyone, including heavy-hitting jazz musicians such as members of the late Chick Corea’s band. Not surprisingly, both parents were classical musicians. Being raised in St. Louis meant the brothers were also exposed to a world of blues, rock and jazz, amongst other genres. Their bass player, the talented Matt Bollinger, grew up with the brothers and has been making music with them since childhood. Although Michael is responsible for most of the arrangements, Matt was instrumental (no pun intended) in the formation of the group with his idea of re-imagining classical works for the six-string electric bass. The Silverman brothers were long-time admirers of Tracy Silverman’s work, and six years ago they brought this highly-accomplished violinist into their group. Not only a formidable performer, he was also a pioneer in the development of the electric six-string violin. A graduate of The Juilliard School, he was named one of only a hundred distinguished alumni and his performance on Saturday left no doubt of his outstanding technique and musicianship. During the show Michael largely served as the emcee, announcing that this was both the beginning and the end of their Canadian tour, seeing how it was a stand-alone concert. He then successfully revived an age-old gag, saying, “Let me introduce the band!” before proceeding to introduce the band members to each other, resulting in much chuckling throughout the crowd. Even before playing, he had won over the audience with his comedic nature and understated charisma. It’s not often that you get to laugh in a show involving Baroque music. The first number was one of Bach’s most popular works, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”, but with an Afro-Cuban feel. Apart from there being four highly proficient musicians on stage, it was instantly clear that this band was completely gelled and thoroughly enjoying playing as a group. A highlight of the night was “Re-Invention 13” (based on the piece by J.S. Bach) where we were first introduced to the Zendrum, an electronic drum-guitar played only by the hands. I had never seen one before and, had I closed my eyes, I could have sworn their drummer was playing a whole electronic kit. Between Rob’s deftness on the relatively small instrument and Michael’s alternation between the keytar (a keyboard strapped across the body like a guitar) and the piano, this piece was not only entertaining aurally but visually as well.  After Michael’s playful quotation of “The Pink Panther Theme” in his solo, Rob joined his brother and the two began an amusing bit, repeatedly pushing each other off the bench while playing — essentially duelling on one piano. This impressed and delighted the audience, with laughter and applause all around. Although it was not the last song listed on the program, their “final'' number of the night (which, when announced, was a comedic “nudge-nudge wink-wink” to demand an encore) was their arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — in the style of Carlos Santana. Here, the band especially shone, mostly notably Rob with a display of his outstanding talents as a rock drummer. Two minutes into his solo, he threw his drumsticks across the room, the lights went out, and he was suddenly using blue LED drumsticks in the dark. All without missing a beat.  Although the average age of the audience might have been in their seventies, you would not have guessed it with the level of cheering and hollering that occurred. Other numbers included Tracy’s original electric violin solo, skillfully played with a loop pedal, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in the style of Bugs Bunny, and their crowd-pleasing medley of “Star Wars”.  There was a strong rock undertone in their arrangements, and Matt deserves attention for his prowess in anchoring the band, providing a steady pulse and groove through each number. When asked who their heaviest music influence was, the Silverman brothers quickly responded, “Rush.” This was the KCCA’s second show in the new space, the Evangel Church Auditorium on Gordon Drive, and the lighting and sound were perfect for this act. Although they always bring in phenomenal groups from around the world, it's safe to say that “Bach to The Future” is a stand-out with their ability to inject new life into classical pieces we know so well, using their arsenal of charm, humour, creativity and staggering musical chops. This was the most fun I have had at a concert and you can bet I will be Bach for more! Lyndsey Wong, M.D. was trained as a coloratura soprano and was awarded Distinction in the ARCT exam for Piano Performance. She works as a singer and actor on stage and screen, and has been a Music Director and vocal coach for multiple theatre productions.

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Lysander Piano Trio Opens New Season By Neville Bowman The Kelowna Community Concert Association is back! After a tumultuous summer, the new season got under way in a new performance venue, presenting the return of the Lysander Piano Trio to Kelowna. The Lysander trio, consisting of Itamar Zorman on violin, Michael Katz on cello and Liza Stepanova on piano is known for making a deliberate effort to perform works by underrepresented composers. To this end, the first half of the concert was dedicated to two Nordic writers, Edvard Grieg and Amanda Maier. Grieg's Andante seemed to me a curious choice to start a concert. Dark and subtle, it really pulled in the listener, shrinking the room to a much more intimate sound. Never really reaching an energetic climax, the piece did show off the control and musicality of the trio. Maier is unfamiliar to me and many others, so it was a pleasant surprise to be introduced to something new. I did hear many similarities between the two composers, and the way in which the trio brought out the complex textural elements of Maier's writing was quite remarkable. The dynamic control of the string players was very impressive to me, and always well balanced with the solo violin melody in the third movement being a real standout. The second half of the concert was Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat. This music seemed much more familiar to the audience, and you could sense a greater connection with the players. More energetic, expressive and storytelling, to me it was much better balance for the trio, allowing them to really create a broader sound than the first half. Liza Stepanova felt more like an accompanist with the Grieg and Maier, but with the Schubert we got to hear how good she really is. Something as simple sounding as the quick 1/16th notes in the allegro is very difficult to play yet she consistently delivered them perfectly. The musicianship from all of them was undeniably top level and the culmination of the Schubert somehow created a sound much larger than one would think a trio could produce. Thankfully, the new venue worked. It worked very well in fact. Evangel Church on Gordon Drive, while boasting greater seating capacity than the previous space, somehow created a smaller sounding room. For the Lysander trio, this meant that even the softest passages were heard clearly. The musicians are of course a large part of that, knowing how to balance their sound, but the room lends itself well to a small intimate group. I am curious to hear how a larger ensemble will work! For those considering a membership (still an amazing deal for the quality performances you'll see), there were seats still available around us and the pews were surprisingly comfortable. I would advise arriving a bit earlier though as the entrance off of Gordon was backing up a bit. Thanks to the Lysander Piano Trio for what was unofficially the "soft" opening to KCCA's new season. They set a very high standard for the year and the diversity and range of upcoming acts looks intriguing and very entertaining, something to look forward to in the coming months. Memberships are still available!

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