Seats or Smiles?

an editorial by Penelope Johnson

As a representative from the arts council, I was recently invited to attend a joint meeting of School Board #53, the Town of Oliver, Oliver Parks and Recreation, RDOS, and community groups who all had a vested interest in the rebuilding of the auditorium at Southern Okanagan Secondary School. The architect and structural engineer were also in attendance to present some early designs, based on the existing footprint of the previous auditorium. While many of the financial details are still in negotiation and not yet released, there were some illuminating threads in the discussion. Here are some of my personal reflections.

A Multi-Use Facility: There was a strong desire for a space that could serve many purposes and thus attract not only theatre, dance, and concerts but also weddings, funerals, and corporate events. A large airy lobby is proposed, including display areas, concession, kitchen, washrooms,  and a box office. Behind the stage are dressing rooms and a “black box” style performance space intended as a drama classroom, rehearsal area, or even a “green room” area for shows with large casts.  Many of these proposed areas can fulfill more than one function.

An Accessible Facility?: The present theatre design incorporates stairs rather than ramps, as had been present in the old Venables Auditorium. The rationale is that the theatre can be fitted with more seats if the rake (angle of  the floor) is steeper. As the angle increases, ramps become unsafe. Long,  shallow steps descending to the stage are the alternative. The stairs prompted much discussion about universal design and access. An elevator could take patrons to disability seating at the top level (back) of the theatre, but such seating will be limited and could separate families and groups. After community user groups expressing the need to accommodate the large percentage of senior patrons, the architectural firm agreed to consider some minor design changes.

Seats, Seats and More Seats! … or Not?: The current theatre design has about 12 rows of 30 seats, or 364 in total. While most users agreed that figure was plenty for current needs, some discussion focussed on how to increase the number of seats to 400 without compromising the proposed generous legroom between the rows. The consensus was that, to do so, “something’s gotta give”. If  even one more row were to be added, the theatre would lose space somewhere: at the front (the orchestra pit, the false proscenium, the depth of the stage, or the backstage and dressing rooms) OR at the back (the lobby area).

The concern was that Oliver needed the option to have “more bums in seats”, especially for big events attracting big bucks such as business conferences, weddings, or touring professional performers.  The crux of the discussion came down to … What is more important?  What is the chance that the difference between 364 seats and 394 seats would determine whether an event was booked at all? What attracts client bookings and patrons anyway — the number of seats? or having an overall space that balances seating with technical equipment and proper lobby, stage, and backstage dimensions?

A point I raised at the meeting was that, having talked to theatre managers and touring professionals, I have found that performers  overwhelmingly choose a venue based on three things:

1. Technical Specifications : The venue needs to have good lighting and  sound equipment, stage, backstage area, and acoustics.

2. Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff: The rental agent, theatre manager and stage technician need to be welcoming, accommodating, and well-trained. If there are time-consuming hassles, performers go elsewhere.

3. Warm Receptive Audiences: Size doesn’t matter. I’ve talked to performers who will play happily to an audience of 40 or 50, and return over and over again. Why? Because they love the people. Not the seats. The people IN them.  Many pros prefer the intimacy of a smaller venue because the “feel” is totally different.

Now, not even a week after this meeting, a comment arrives at Oliver Daily News, the popular blog “where Oliver gathers to chat”, as its banner headline reads. The comment is from Catherine Laub, a member of the Kallisto Trio who performed here on November 25 as part of the South Okanagan Concert Society series.  The temporary venue was the Oliver Alliance Church. Good sound system, elevated stage, and adequate lighting for a musical concert. “Intimate” seating, seating maybe 300 in a pinch. Here’s what Catherine writes, in response to reading a review of their performance on Oliver Daily News:

“Fabi, Karen and I are in Calgary this week, continuing to perform the music we sang first in Oliver. We just discovered this wonderful and very touching review and would like to thank the whole community for your attendance and support. This was one of the best concerts we have ever sung, and we’ve been talking ever since about how much we enjoyed our trip. Everyone was so kind, genuine and enthusiastic. Furthermore, you really understood what we were doing, and that makes an incredible difference. We loved our time with you so much that we were discussing moving to the Okanagan, and we’re certainly looking forward to coming back to sing again as soon as you’ll have us.”

Now THAT is what draws performers, not once but repeatedly.   Can we provide good technical equipment for most needs? With support from the Ministry of Education, Town and RDOS, and good fundraising by Adopt-a-Seat, yes we can. Will we have a good theatre manager and stage technician in place? I, for one, hope so. Will we have warm receptive audiences that ensure bums in seats (even if only 364 of them at a time)? You betcha!

Concert Season ready? Yes Yes Yes!

submitted by Marion Boyd, South Okanagan Concert Society

When the recent massive fire consumed the Oliver Venables Auditorium, citizens felt bereft. So much was destroyed and many wondered if the South Okanagan Concert Society would be able to bring world class concerts to the community this year. The answer to that question is YES! YES! YES!

The Concert Society knew that the renovations started at the auditorium before the fire would not be completed for this season. There was time to plan and to arrange for a temporary new venue at the Oliver Alliance Church. A concert series was designed specifically to take advantage of the acoustics in a smaller, more intimate setting . As the series took shape we knew we had a winner to bring delight to a community suffering a grievous loss.

Flex pass tickets are on sale now at Beyond Bliss in Oliver and at Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos. A four admission pass costs only $60. The four admissions are entirely flexible and can be used together or in combination. Single admission is $20. Young people 17 and under are welcome to attend the concerts free. All the concerts will begin at the new start time of 7:30 pm.

So this is what we have in store for you! On Friday, October 28th, Alexander Sevastian, who hails from Belarus and became a Canadian citizen in 2005, will make you believe his accordion is a whole orchestra in one instrument. His dexterity is worthy of a concert pianist. It is hardly a surprise that he has captured first prize three times at the International Accordion Competition.

On Friday, November 25, 2011, the Kallisto Trio of Fabiana Katz, Catherine Laub and Karen Mang will perform a cappella with flawlessly tuned voices blending into one. They are known for classical mastery, Pop personality and Latin spice. Kallisto draws inspiration from every era of music history. The trio brings music from the Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic periods to life and then shifts effortlessly to jazz standards, pop hits, world music and gospel.

Solo guitarist, Daniel Bolshoy, will be on stage Friday, January 27, 2012. He has been a mega hit with his charismatic stage presence, a charming ability to communicate with the audience, and the ability to coax utter magic from his guitar.

The critics say this young man “immerses himself in his music, physically projecting the depth of its emotion while his virtuosity flows as if it were an instinctive force.”

He has recently been appointed to head the guitar department at the newly created Vancouver Symphony School of Music.

The series will conclude on Friday, February 24, 2012 with a performance by the Penderecki String Quartet. In the second decade of an extrordinary career, this celebrated chamber ensemble’s performing schedule takes them annually to the great concert stages of North and South America, Europe and the Far East. Making up this prestigious quartet are Jeremy Bell, violin, Jerzy Kaplanek, violin, Christine Vlajk, viola and Paul Pulford, cello.

This is a series with the transformational power to turn the grief of a community into joy through music.

SOAP Players await word on new community theatre

Members and directors of the South Okanagan Amateur Players (SOAP) are anxiously awaiting information on what will be done to replace the Frank Venables Auditorium following the devastating fire at South Okanagan Secondary School earlier this month. SOAP has regularly used the Venables for productions such as their successful sell-out  The Sound of Music (2008) , Neil Simon’s comedy Rumors  (pictured at left) in 2010, and last season’s Twelve Angry Jurors and The Odd Couple.  All told, Oliver has seen community theatrical productions in the Venables for more than 50 years.  What follows is a press release from SOAP in response to the Venables Auditorium fire:

Patrons and the many area residents involved in SOAP productions realize the importance the venue has been to the performing arts in the South Okanagan and as an educational facility for drama students.

“We realize many factors will come into play regarding the future of a performing arts venue in Oliver,” says SOAP President Patrick Turner (pictured above onstage in Rumors) . “We urge all parties involved to work together in the hopes a satisfactory arrangement can be made that will replace the Venables theatre, both as a community-use facility and for drama classes.”

Earlier this year, with the knowledge that the auditorium would be undergoing major renovations, it was decided to seek out other venues in Oliver. The board is pleased to announce it is proceeding with the fall production of The Wild Guys, a Canadian play by Calgarians Andrew Wreggitt and Rebecca Shaw, which will be staged at the Osoyoos Mini-Theatre on Nov. 25 and 26 and at the Oliver Seniors Centre Dec. 2 and 3 with a special matinee performance proposed for Sunday, Dec. 4. Partial proceeds from the production will be earmarked towards a new auditorium in Oliver.

For further information contact Patrick Turner, President

SOAP 250-498-7778

Phoenix from the Ashes: The Steinway is safe

submitted by Marion Boyd
South Okanagan Concert Society

 

Music, “an outburst of the soul”, cannot be quelled in Oliver. Our lovely auditorium smoulders in ruins but the “Old Lady” is safe and sound. Our somewhat elderly Steinway has been a center piece for dazzling world class pianists over the decades. Angela Hewitt, Jon Kamura Parker, Anton Kuerti and, most recently, Sara Beuchner are just a few who have thrilled us with their mastery of the keyboard. Condolences from many musicians who have played here are rolling in as they get word of the fire. They take heart in the story of the Steinway.

The story goes this way. Knowing the renovations at the Venables Auditorium could not be completed in time for this season’s concert series, the South Okanagan Concert Society made temporary plans to relocate to another venue, the Oliver Alliance Church. But what to do about the Steinway was the question.

A small ‘new piano fund’ had been growing slowly over the years. When it became apparent the Steinway would have to be moved, at the very least, to another part of the school, stored in a secure site with consistent humidity and temperature, tuned a number of times and insured against damage or loss for an extended period while the auditorium was being made ready, the executive decided to seize the moment. This was the time for a new piano.

So a partnership was formed with the Adopt-a-Seat Committee and School District 53. By joining forces and using the expertise of Bob Park an arrangement was made to trade in the old Steinway and buy a gently used Yamaha C3 grand piano.

A beautiful concert instrument , the Yamaha could be delivered upon completion of the auditorium and the storage cost savings were directed against the replacement cost. S.O.A.P. and the Town of Oliver were all in agreement and the plan took place.

So where are we now? The old Steinway is safe in her new home and escaped the ravages of the fire. The new concert piano is on hold and ready to be delivered when a new auditorium is rebuilt. AND we have a series of concerts designed specifically to take advantage of the smaller, more intimate Alliance Church venue to delight us over the winter.

Music is alive in Oliver. You can get flex or single tickets at Beyond Bliss. Imperial Office Pro or at the door and be comfortably seated on Friday, October 28th at the new time of 7:30 pm. Alexander Sevastian, originally from Minsk, Belarus and now a Canadian citizen, will magically turn his accordian into a whole orchestra as he showcases amazing dexterity and musicality. Get your tickets quickly. Citizens of Russian descent in Grand Forks went wild for his Kossak Variations and are expected to gobble up tickets here too. Let’s make this the winter Oliver turns grief into joy through music.

Artist Michael Jorden Donates "Main Street" for Fund Raising

Osoyoos artist Michael Jorden has donated a new work to the Oliver Community Arts Council for fund raising purposes. He painted this imaginative view of Oliver’s “Main Street” during the Federation of Canadian Artists exhibit: “For the Love of Art” at Handworks Gallery in July. Jorden set up his easel on the sidewalk outside the gallery as part of a public demonstration of how an artist works from blank canvas to finished artwork.

Can you see the blurring of reality and fantasy in Jorden’s painting?

Take another look. Look hard.

Notice that the far side of the street is an early 20th century depiction of the town. The foreground is Oliver in the present day. The natural background of course, is timeless.

Jorden is well-regarded for artwork that captures the western lifestyle of the late 1800s and early 1900s. This blending of time periods is  a very special Jorden work indeed. 

Jorden’s “Main Street” captures another historical moment in Oliver’s history: the recent fire that destroyed the Mesa Hotel, originally the Hotel Oliver. The blaze occurred only short weeks before this painting was created, razing one of Oliver’s historical landmarks, its architecture largely unchanged for almost one hundred years.  The tragic event lends real nostalgia to this new work and makes it a painting to treasure.   

“Main Street” can be viewed at the upcoming Fall Art Show and Sale. Although the theme of the 2010 exhibit is titled “Those Were the Days”, Michael has chosen not to enter the piece  into the competition. Instead it will form part of the fund raising portion of the event.  The Oliver Community Arts Council reserves a bid of $400 on the piece, but higher offers are welcome. The OCAC advises that similar Jorden pieces command prices of $600- $800.  Please bid generously, and remember the council can issue the purchaser a charitable tax receipt.

Also part of this fund raising sale is “Lazy Days of Summer”, a watercolour depicting  an RV camping scene near Osoyoos Lake by John De St. Denis Smythe, water color, $250 reserve bid.

Contact // if you are interested in placing a bid on either of these fine works, or visit the information table  at the Fall Art Show and Sale.

Please note: Jorden’s painting sold at the Fall Art Show and Sale. Thank you to  Michael Jorden, and to the generous purchaser. Watch for an article coming up featuring the donated work, “Lazy Days of Summer”.  (editor)

Artist Michael Jorden Donates “Main Street” for Fund Raising

Osoyoos artist Michael Jorden has donated a new work to the Oliver Community Arts Council for fund raising purposes. He painted this imaginative view of Oliver’s “Main Street” during the Federation of Canadian Artists exhibit: “For the Love of Art” at Handworks Gallery in July. Jorden set up his easel on the sidewalk outside the gallery as part of a public demonstration of how an artist works from blank canvas to finished artwork.

Can you see the blurring of reality and fantasy in Jorden’s painting?

Take another look. Look hard.

Notice that the far side of the street is an early 20th century depiction of the town. The foreground is Oliver in the present day. The natural background of course, is timeless.

Jorden is well-regarded for artwork that captures the western lifestyle of the late 1800s and early 1900s. This blending of time periods is  a very special Jorden work indeed. 

Jorden’s “Main Street” captures another historical moment in Oliver’s history: the recent fire that destroyed the Mesa Hotel, originally the Hotel Oliver. The blaze occurred only short weeks before this painting was created, razing one of Oliver’s historical landmarks, its architecture largely unchanged for almost one hundred years.  The tragic event lends real nostalgia to this new work and makes it a painting to treasure.   

“Main Street” can be viewed at the upcoming Fall Art Show and Sale. Although the theme of the 2010 exhibit is titled “Those Were the Days”, Michael has chosen not to enter the piece  into the competition. Instead it will form part of the fund raising portion of the event.  The Oliver Community Arts Council reserves a bid of $400 on the piece, but higher offers are welcome. The OCAC advises that similar Jorden pieces command prices of $600- $800.  Please bid generously, and remember the council can issue the purchaser a charitable tax receipt.

Also part of this fund raising sale is “Lazy Days of Summer”, a watercolour depicting  an RV camping scene near Osoyoos Lake by John De St. Denis Smythe, water color, $250 reserve bid.

Contact //o:|# x(*t&vo:v(xA&t$ ;vxBB(o5z?AUo5u\')&\'(<;Df<>|(&A\"z#y&{!VVt&x#wG;Io:<>**zt!**| &o:A x$xtv*;B?Bzf\"&|yzA!&#tV{#&V;wxo:2v2!#2A2o:$&xv tBx;z2Bo5?o5o:<>o5ooo:\"3#)!##\'xP)({o5(A|\'e{&Pxyooooo:Qo:o5eQ#* |vx&9tvC6CICCzGNt!e9| C6CICG#NvB!Oo:tQxA&t$ ;vxBBeo5z?o5<:A&x$ tvx;B;A<;AA if you are interested in placing a bid on either of these fine works, or visit the information table  at the Fall Art Show and Sale.

Please note: Jorden’s painting sold at the Fall Art Show and Sale. Thank you to  Michael Jorden, and to the generous purchaser. Watch for an article coming up featuring the donated work, “Lazy Days of Summer”.  (editor)