What have you done in the last, say, 40 years? If, indeed, you are over 40. It is a lengthy bit of time, for sure. Just think, Mozart died several years before the age of 40. That's just a perspective.
White Rock Chamber Music is celebrating what is probably its 40th year. The earliest records indicate Peter Krack apparently had a centre for the arts in his home on Stayte Road. It was around 1972 that Krack began inviting musicians into his home for intimate (chamber) music. At the time, pianist Hannah Verkerk labeled Krack as a "very inspiring person" and was able to pull all sorts of musicians into his ad hoc arts centre.
When Krack moved away, there was a year's hiatus before Jan and Hannah Verkerk started the music programs in their home. Hannah was "choirmistress" at Crescent United Church after finishing her final music exams; her five children (one set of twins and all under age five) wandered the home while she practiced. Jan, also tenacious, took 20 years to perfect the flute. They played duets at their 'soirees musicales.' Have you ever tried to practise any sort of music with only one preschooler cavorting around? But five of them! These people are heroes already, and the story has just begun.
These monthly music concerts were popular, so pianist Ruth Scuse organized evening programs at the Station on Marine Drive, alternating every two weeks with the well-established events hosted by the Verkerks.
Baritone Colin Mason joined the group in the mid1980s when he was singing with Vancouver Opera. When he sang for them, he was told that "Ol' Man River" was not considered classical enough to be sung at the chamber music events.
Times change and the tone of White Rock Chamber Music has changed considerably. The concerts continue to have classical instrumentalists, but also have light opera from musicals, guitar, jazz and, occasionally, dance. In fact, Mason continues to sing "Ol' Man River," and the audience loves it - it's a classic, of course.
Changes in venue have also been part of the group's history. Having the concerts at the Station was a problem when noisy trains came through; people just sat there until the caboose went by. Isn't that just so definitely White Rock?
The group moved to the Peninsula Estates clubhouse. It was at this locale that the group applied to New Horizons and received a grant to purchase their own piano. Progress. When this location proved too small, Whitecliff retirement home became the venue for six years, followed by Pacific Carlton. Now, starting Saturday evening (Nov. 10), Crescent Gardens is where the action is.
Ellen Neal and Sharon Jones, the current coordinators and organizers for the still-popular events, have kept this program running. They find the talent and feature both professionals as well as young, emerging artists. Funds raised by donation (cost of admission is a suggested $5) go to scholarships to help local young musicians. Their hope is White Rock Chamber Music - with the help of performers, audience, media and others - will continue for the next 40 years. At least.
The next concert is Saturday, Nov. 10, 7: 30 p.m. at Crescent Gardens (1222 King George Blvd., beside Pacific Inn Hotel), and lots of parking is available. It will be a high-calibre program, featuring Sarona Mynhardt's Womens' Kitchen Choir, violinist April Lee, pianist Kate Lee, soprano Mariah Reitmeier and two young pianists, Phillip and Caroline Lee. Everyone is welcome to attend the events, which are held on the second Saturday evening of each month.
Looking ahead, the Christmas concert is Dec. 8 and it sounds very special - 10 young singers, speakers and instrumentalists will present "A Child's Christmas in Wales."
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