Piano “jewel” in Venables lobby setting

The Frank Venables Theatre lobby now provides the shimmering setting for a jewel of a piano: a Petrof grand. The glossy black instrument has been donated to the Venables theatre society as a memorial to piano teacher, Agnes Sutherland, who passed away in March 2016. A “baby sister” to the Yamaha used onstage at the Venables, the Petrof will provide entertainment at small recitals, receptions, weddings, exhibits and gala events in the theatre lobby. The fundraising campaign achieved its goal in a matter of months, raising $10,000 for this “lovingly used” instrument.  Giving added meaning to the memorial, the piano was purchased from Jeanne Crawford, whose daughter had been a piano student of Sutherland’s many years ago. The family had kept the piano in pristine condition.

As proven at a donor reception on Saturday January 28, the piano holds its own in the large lobby. Despite a lofty two-storey ceiling, the instrument’s smooth tones easily filled the space. The reception featured several pianists, chosen for their musical variety. Fourteen-year old Chase Alaric amazed the donors with his boogie-woogie blues workout. Jim Wyse tickled the keys with some jazz arrangements, with loudest applause for Oscar Peterson’s moving Hymn to Freedom. Piano students Kendra and Mataya Leinor and Kelan Harty (above) added sophistication with some classical pieces. One of Sutherland’s former pupils, Lisa Elgert, performed Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago. In a fitting tribute, Ginette Aubin (below) lent her powerful pipes to a performance of I Believe, accompanying herself on the piano.

Interspersing the musical numbers were several reflections on Agnes’ contributions to the Oliver community. Several members of Agnes’ family were on hand to reminisce, including speeches by her brother Dave Evans and daughter Sally Franks. Penelope Johnson of the Oliver Community Arts Council, announced the society had made an additional $5000 in memorial donations to local schools for capital expenditures in both music and fine arts departments. She also recalled Agnes’ connection to the original Venables Theatre, as an accompanist for many SOAP musicals and student recitals.  Venables Theatre manager, Deb Martin, expressed her amazement and gratitude for the outpouring of support for the memorial piano.

A total of $10,000 was raised with the support of many organizations, including those of which Agnes was a member (the Oliver Sagebrushers and the Oliver Community Arts Council), as well as the South Okanagan Concert Society, Women of Oliver for Women, and the Oliver Community Theatre Society. Roughly sixty individuals also donated generously to the memorial fund. In addition, several of Agnes’ paintings were sold to raise money for the piano. The memorial campaign was co-chaired by Marion Trimble and Sally Franks.

The funds required to pay for a brass plaque will be raised with a raffle. Prizes are three paintings by professional artist Robert E. Wood, of Calgary. Prize winners will be announced on May 11 during the Wine Capital Art Walk. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at the Venables Theatre.

Photo credit: Penelope Johnson

Remembering Mona Meredith

manitobas-prairie-crocusMona Meredith, a dedicated and longtime member of the Oliver Community Arts Council, passed away on Tuesday, October 13, 2009.

She was born in June of 1926 in Neepawa, Manitoba, to William F. Spratt and Lila Spratt (Grassie). She attended the University of Manitoba, graduating in Interior Design.

Moving to Vancouver, she worked at Thompson, Berwick and Pratt, Architects where she met her first husband, David Hickman. They had two sons, Michael (Lil), and Ian (Lee), which in turn led to three grandaughters, Kathryn, Rebecca and Megan.

After working in the real estate industry on the North Shore, she retired to Oliver in 1981. She enjoyed many happy years in Oliver with a great group of friends.

Mona left an indelible legacy in the arts community, including her time in office as President of the Oliver Community Arts Council, and being a founding member of the Friends of the Oliver Library.  She has been recalled fondly by many arts council members as “a mover and shaker”.

A gathering will be held in her honour on Saturday October 24, from 2 -4  p.m. at the Nk’mip Golf Club in Oliver, BC.  All arts council members are invited to share their memories of Mona at the event.

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