And a … quail in a … spruce tree

The arts council has entered the Festival of Trees on display now at the Frank Venables Theatre lobby. The tree is decorated in three of our logo colours: a perfect colour triad of purple, orange, and green. Quails play a large part of the decorations, including the tree topper by JoAnn Turner. Thanks to our Tree Team: JoAnn, Bernice Myllyniemi and Caroline Whyte!

Thank you Janet Bednarczyk and the CreatAbility class for all the paper crafted ornaments.

Many member groups and businesses also contributed ornaments to our Festival of Trees entry. Gelato spoons, film canisters and rolls, along with beaded, painted, knitted, quilted, and musical ornaments grace its branches. To see more of the tree, watch the  video here:  Festival of Trees Facebook video or here: Festival of Trees Adobe Video

Please drop by the theatre and enjoy all the trees on display. Vote for your favourite! You can make a donation with your vote, supporting BC Children’s Hospital.  Vote before January 3 during open hours at the Frank Venables Theatre (Tuesday – Thursday 10 a.m – 3 p.m.) or at any performance.

Local ringer goes provincial

Another instance of the wonderful array of talent found in our little town of Oliver is found in Helen Wollf. Wollf’s background in music has led to an invitation as one of the clinicians at the BCGEHR Spring Ring 2018 where she will present on Beginner Solo Ringing and Small Ensembles with Bells.

“Having such an opportunity as this is really exciting. I was introduced to solo ringing by a performance done at a Guild Spring Ring more than 20 years ago. This is full circle for me,” says Wollf.

Starting private music lessons as a child at the age of 2 before she could read the alphabet and broadening her music training into voice, wind instruments and handbells, and also to conducting under the auspices of Lars Kaario, conductor of the Capilano Singers, Wollf has broad experience and training in music to share.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a wide variety of learning opportunities in my music education and I enjoy being able to invest that into the South Okanagan both as an elementary school teacher and as a musical director in a community group,” continues Wollf.

Currently Wollf is on partial maternity leave from School District 53, Wollf shares her time and talents as the Musical Director of the Oliver Handbell Ringers and will be performing a solo as part of their Christmas concerts entitled “One Winter’s Night” held at Christ the King Catholic Church, Friday, December 15th at 7:30 p.m and Sunday, December 17th at 3:00 p.m.

“Handbells are such an amazing instrument – impressive to see and brilliant to hear. They thrilled me at age 11, and still do the same today!” says Wollf, “Come experience their magic this Christmas season!”

Friday Night Live lights up

Friday Night Live – November 24th: It’s the Christmas Light-Up edition. We have most of our great artists coming to perform some great early Xmas musical treats. We are returning after a month so the house will be FULL and seats at a premium!

This valley is chock full of great musicians with incredible music……Get up, come down, get in and get it on!!!

Come kick the doors down with your own vibe. We are gonna be packed. The music is gonna blow the doors off. The beer is cold and the music IS of course always so HOT! We crank it up shortly after 7:00….all we need is you! Bring your music!! Bring your fun!! Bring your mum. Get in here!!

We are licensed. We have beer, wine, coffees with a kick and our usual great gelato and snacks, sweet treats. Medici’s this Friday, November 24 at 7:00 PM. 522 Fairview Road. 250-498-2228

Not the Dalai Lama – it’s Tommy Lama!

by David Badger

Legendary comedian Tommy Savitt is bringing the Tommy Lama experience to Medici’s in Oliver. An incredible opportunity to experience first-hand a real Vegas comedy pro. Just read up on some on some of Tommy’s accolades and you’ll see what I mean. What a great way to slide into Christmas for 20 bucks on a Thursday night. I’ll have you home before 10. You don’t want to miss this! You won’t get to see a comedian of this calibre in Oliver again for very long time.

The Tommy Lama Comedy Experience is a comedy spoof on the get-rich quick, self-help, and life coach gurus in America Today. Tommy Savitt is the winner of the prestigious Boston and Seattle Comedy Festivals, as well as two-time recipient of the LA Comedy Award for Stand-Up . His “The Tommy Lama Experience” has enjoyed extended performances at Las Vegas’ Tropicana and Stratosphere Hotels. Watch out Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and Joel Osteen, You may be converted.

“Tommy Savitt is one of the most uniquely creative comics working today”…Brian Kiley – Writer for the Conan O’Brien Show.

“Forget what you think you know about Stand-Up comedy, because you are not prepared for what you are about to witness. This is an act that is so familiar from the Golden Age of Comedy and yet, confidently unique…Jason Laurans – Club owner of Absolute Comedy.

Tickets are $20 each. Seating is assigned. We open doors at 7:00 PM and Tommy will get you laughing at 8:00… 522 Fairview Road in Oliver, 250-498-2228.. December 7th, Thursday night..Come for a huge laugh before your VISA bill arrives.

It’s the Man in Black

David James and Big River are often described as one of the most authentic Johnny Cash tribute shows touring today. Thousands of fans agree with those reviews, as they routinely sell out shows in venues large and small across Canada and the U.S.

James and his band – Todd Sacerty on bass, Duncan Symonds on guitar and pedal steel, and Colin Stevenson on drums – look and sound like the legacy of the Man in Black, and when they step on stage, they live it.

From the way David James holds his guitar to the way he talks to his audience, the legendary musician lives again when James steps to the mike and says, “Hello – I’m almost Johnny Cash.”

Tickets $30 advance, $35 same day can be purchased here;  Frank Venables Theatre

“Flow of festivity” at Christmas concert

The lively Community Christmas Concert, on Sunday November 26, bursts with energy and surprises. The variety show’s lineup includes some special guests, several new performers, and the return of local audience favourites. “We want to create a flow of festivity from the lobby to the stage and back again, so the fun never stops,” explains co-producer Andrea Furlan. From ballet to belly dancers, cherubic carollers, country rock, jazzy singalongs, and a certain red suited gent with a belly laugh, the revue’s celebration of the season is delightfully fresh.

The stage show begins at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday November 26 at the Frank Venables Theatre. But the lobby activity starts much earlier. Arrive up to 45 minutes early to enjoy entertainment in the lobby. The Festival of Trees has its public opening that afternoon. Stroll with friends among the dazzling display and vote for your favourite Christmas tree. Sing along to seasonal melodies by a musical quartet in the lobby, featuring trumpet, violin, clarinet and piano.

The OES Children’s Choir kicks off the stage show at 2:30 with some jolly singing. Audience favourite Rebel Luv returns with some Christmas country rock. Expect Mikie and Ken to get folks clapping and tapping along. The toe-tapping continues with some lively numbers by Leah Moen’s Oliver Dance Studio. Dancers strut their stuff on the new Marley floor, courtesy of the Oliver Community Theatre Society. Catch your breath while JoAnn Turner recites some Christmas poetry. Then it’s a new twist on “Jingle Bells” with a jingly belly dance by Halawa (pictured).

During intermission, the lobby hums with more festivity: Aimee Grice provides background on vocals and guitar. And who’s that arriving with a “Ho Ho Ho”? Bring your cameras to capture the grand old elf himself!

Special guests from Ballet Kelowna (pictured), perform the lovely Arabian Dance from The Nutcracker to open the second half in style. Bluesy singer and pianist Bianca Berkland leads an audience singalong with her dad Noel accompanying on guitar. The Yamaha C3 grand piano gets a workout, courtesy of the South Okanagan Concert Society. Ringing in the season will be the Oliver Elementary Handbell Team. In a swirl of Victorian gowns and top hats, the Sage Valley Voices sing a stunning concluding set of carols, under the direction of Lori Martine. Santa is set to send all children home with bags of treats at the end of the concert. Prize-winning games and quizzes will entertain the kids during the show as well.

Admission is by cash donation. All cash proceeds go to the Oliver Food Bank. Goods for the Oliver Food Bank are also welcome.

The Community Christmas Concert is a co-presentation between the Oliver Community Arts Council and the Oliver Community Theatre Society.


“20,000 chords”: piano duo review

by Bob Park

There’s an old joke about the difference between jazz musicians and rock musicians. “A rock musician plays 3 chords for 20, 000 people. A jazz musician plays 20, 000 chords for 3 people.”

So, what happens if classical gets thrown in the mix? Turns out, the played those 20, 000 chords for over 200 people Friday night (November 10, 2017) at the Frank Venables Theatre—and we gave them a standing ovation.

The South Okanagan Concert Society’s first concert of the 2017/18 season was over-the-top wonderful. Both the Frank Venables Theatre’s lobby piano (a Petrof)  and the concert society’s stage piano (the Yamaha C3)  had a workout as never before. This high energy show  took us on a captivating tour of  familiar classical music themes infused with imaginative jazz twists and turns throughout. Every one of those “20,000 chords” brought us surprises and delight.

Having heard one of the pianists, internationally acclaimed Matt Herskowitz, perform solo in Oliver ten years ago—yes, on that dear old Steinway in that ageing school auditorium!— , I looked forward to this concert in which he was teaming up with another international great, jazz pianist John Roney . The rest of the audience had also clued in that this would be different—they didn’t all crowd to the one side to see a soloist’s hands on the piano keys. From all angles, it was such fun to watch these two world-class musicians constantly interact with each other as they explored the possibilities of those beloved classical themes fused with the rich harmonic language and creativity of jazz. The music of Bach, Debussy, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Beethoven was given new life as they re-interpreted it for us so masterfully, all the while referencing the spirit of the original.

As I listened to Matt and John pushing harmonic boundaries so effortlessly and with a smile, I wondered what those old masters would have thought of people tampering with their music. When you consider that these composers were either considered off the wall, avant garde or inveterate improvisers in their own time, I suspect they probably would have joined us in standing and shouting, “Bravo!”

In this entire program of excellence what really stood out for me was the Piano Cameleons’ performance  of Beethoven’s well-known “Pathetique” Sonata.

Besides playing the two first movements mentioned on the program, they  treated us to the “premiere in BC” of the third movement, which they had just finished working up. Watching them egg each other on, feeding off each other’s energy and enthusiasm, we witnessed Beethoven morphing into “All the Things You Are”, and then into “Blueberry Hill”, and then into something that sounded like the soundtrack to an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie! Wonderful stuff! Somewhere Beethoven and Fats Domino are smiling.

Music lovers in the South Okanagan: mark your calendars for January 19, 2018. Another duo, this one a 26-year old pianist and her 19-year old brother on the cello. Check out the Frank Venables website, for the Cheng2Duo and other future musical delights which the South Okanagan Concert Society has in store for the rest of the concert season.

Photo Credit: Alan Dean Photography

Music for all ears

Musaic Vocal Ensemble presents: “A Christmas Collage”
Join us to experience a sound collage of Christmas choral music. From 16th Century Renaissance polyphony to brand new compositions, from a bit of jazz to a bit of folk, from Benjamin Britten to the Pentatonix – whatever your choral tastes, you’ll be filled with the joy and beauty of the season. And if you love to sing, you’ll even have the opportunity to sing along with some favourite Christmas carols.

December 8th, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
St. Savior’s Anglican Church
150 Orchard Ave,
Penticton BC

December 9th, 2:30 p.m.
St. John’s Lutheran Church,
15244 Victoria Rd N

Ding dong merrily

Oliver is a small town with plenty of talent. Filled to the brim with artists, it’s no wonder that two young musicians are getting set to represent the community this Christmas.

Nicole Thorp and Devin Riley are members of the Oliver Handbell Ringers (OHR). The pair have been selected to join the Okanagan Handbell Chorus, an elite group of ringers cherry-picked for their talents, to accompany the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

Both have musical backgrounds in piano, which is certainly an asset with the handbells.

Thorp’s ringing career began in 2007, as a charter member of OHR. Nicole began piano lessons at 8 years old, and carried that love for music throughout her entire life. She earned two separate music degrees in college. When asked about the differences between performing an instrument, such as the piano and performing with a handbell choir Thorp informed, “It is a VERY different experience than playing on a keyboard instrument. In an ensemble situation you may be responsible for 2 or 10 tones in the entire piece. You rely on body cues from other players and develop a real awareness of the entire group.”

Riley has been swinging the bronze since 2010. This was his grad year in high school and when his piano lessons, which commenced in kindergarten, also culminated by completing his grade 8 in the Royal Conservatory of Music program. 

When asked what draws Devin to this unique instrument he stated, “I find that handbells are deceptively complex. I might only have four bells in a piece, but once you add five or six different ringing techniques, or hand chimes it gets complicated in a hurry. I don’t think I’ve ever been bored playing bells…and then there is the added challenge of making it appear easily done to the audience.”

Okanagan Handbell Chorus (OHC) was organized in the early months of 2011 by ringer and director Nikki Atwell of Westbank, BC and directed under the watchful eye of Susan Carscadden-Mifsud, an Ontario ringer/ director (and president of OGEHR). Maestro Rosemary Thompson of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra approached Atwell, knowing she had connections to musicians with enough passion and drive to produce high quality handbell pieces to be incorporated with the Christmas production. 

Unlike being a member to a regular choir, the ringers of OHC study and rehearse their music individually. There are no weekly practices to slowly brush up on the material. The group only gets together to ring as an ensemble two days prior to performance. The week of performance is gruelling both mentally and physically.  But, the pieces come together by show time to be absolutely top-notch. 

Okanagan Symphony Orchestra’s “Ringing in the Season” treats the public to a second insertion of the Okanagan Handbell Chorus on December 21, 22 and 23.

Nicole and Devin have busy lives with work and family commitments, yet both continue to ring with their regularly scheduled handbell group on a weekly basis. The members of OHR are busy preparing for their own big Christmas event. 

Christmas and bells will forever go together, hand in glove. Musicians dedicated to creating quality music to help others celebrate the season have no shortage of things to practice and brush up on. Let us all be thankful for the talent, commitment and passion of young people like Mr. Riley and Ms. Thorp. Look for the pair with their bright smiles and tinkling bells on Thursday, Dec 21(Vernon Performing Arts Centre), Friday, Dec 22 (Kelowna Community Theatre) and Saturday Dec 23 (Penticton’s Cleland Community Theatre).

The Oliver Handbell Ringers are working diligently on producing their own Christmas program entitled “One Winter’s Night” held at Christ the King Catholic Church (Oliver, BC), Friday, December 15th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 17th at 3:00 p.m.

Auditions November 19 for New Play

SOAP Theatre will be hosting open auditions for the spring 2018 production of “Outside Mullingar” at the following times:

– Sun. Nov. 19 at 2 pm – Big Blue Building – 5840 Airport St. Oliver
– Mon. Nov. 20 at 7 pm – Arts Centre, Upstairs – 8713 Main St. Osoyoos

Two male and two female actors are required to cast this Tony Award nominated romantic comedy by John Patrick Shanley (Doubt, Moonstruck, Joe vs the Volcano). For a full description of each character and preparation materials for your audition, please review the information and script excerpts on the SOAP Theatre website at:

and script excerpts on the SOAP Theatre website at:

Outside Mullingar is booked to play five performances at the Frank Venables Theatre between April 21 and 28. It will also be SOAP Theatre’s entry into the Okanagan Zone Theatre Festival in Vernon on or about May 24.

Cast members selected will be given scripts to review prior to rehearsals, scheduled to begin in early February. There will also be 3-4 meetings of the cast and director for script read-throughs and character development discussions prior to rehearsals.

Valdy and Fjellgaard will entertain

Ken Smedley presents THE CONTENDERSGary Fjellgaard and Valdy on their 16th Annual Tour of the Okanagan Interior with special guests Blu & Kelly Hopkins.

Sunday November 5


Frank Venables Theatre,

6100 Gala Street, Oliver, BC



Over the past 16 years of touring and recording together THE CONTENDERS have delighted audiences across Canada with their distinct Western/Roots/Folk style of music that champions vanishing values and the frontier spirit. As Canadian as they come, they are all rolled into one unique brand of character, humour, authenticity and sincerity. Gary Fjellgaard was recently inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame.  Fjellgaard, who has been a Juno Award Winner and a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer, is one half of the CONTENDERS (with side-kick, Valdy – also a Juno Award Winner and a member of the Order of Canada).

An evening with THE CONTENDERS will lift your spirit, touch your soul and leave you grinnin’ from ear to ear – guaranteed! Get your tickets early to this evening of laughter and songs to fill your hearts – with The Boys of Rhythm – THE CONTENDERS!

Special Guests Blu and Kelly Hopkins, on the 16th Annual Contenders Tour, are an award winning, songwriting, multi-instrumentalist duo. Focusing on original material, their extensive repertoire lets them blend traditional and contemporary tunes in to their show with a dash of humor to achieve an entertaining, exciting, yet mellow brew of good times, good tunes!