Music brings hope to High Riverites
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 09:03 am
An organization bringing music to High River for years insists the show must go on.
The High River Gift of Music Concert Series initially canceled its September concert when its venue, the High River United Church, was damaged in June’s flood. However, the board later realized citizens who returned to devastated homes this summer need music in their lives now more than ever.
“A couple of weeks after we were let back in town I phoned the musicians and cancelled because I thought there was no way we could get this organized,” said High River Gift of Music Artistic and Executive Director Michèle Wheatley-Brown. “Once I got my basement cleaned out and went for a walk around town I could just see the devastation of the terrible flood. We need to be inspired and we need to have hope.”
Wheatley-Brown organized a meeting of the board to discuss rescheduling the September concert and soon found the others felt the same.
“Even though a few people are still not back in High River they said we will do what we can do because they felt it was so important,” she said of the board’s decision. “It’s been a good distraction for us to have something positive to work towards.”
With hundreds of her friends and neighbours picking up the pieces after the Highwood River tore through homes and businesses in the June 20 flood Wheatley-Brown said the timing is right to brighten spirits.
“Music can really be such a solace for the community when we are in this situation,” she said. “It can really bring us some inspiration and comfort.”
Keeping the concert going is somewhat of a statement for Wheatley-Brown.
“We are famous for the flood,” she said. “We need to show the rest of Alberta that we are on the road to recovery and that the arts and music is a vital part of our community. We will show the rest of Alberta that we are a vibrant art community. It’s something we are proud of.”
First on the list was finding a new venue. Wheatley-Brown said the board was able to book the Highwood Golf and Country Club for its next two concerts.
“There weren’t many venues that were in working order,” she said. “The golf club came through for us. It’s got a cathedral ceiling but it’s a little smaller than we are used to.”
Wheatley-Brown said she expects the venue to fit close to 200 people compared to the United Church, which hosted as many as 300.
“It will be interesting to see how many people come out for this,” she said. “There are still a lot of people who are displaced and not around.”
The Sept. 15 concert features British Columbia teens Colleen Venables on violin and Tate Zawadiuk on cello, accompanied by Canmore pianist Susanne Ruberg-Gordon. Venables and Zawadiuk are soloists with the Calgary Philharmonic and Vancouver Symphonies and placed first in the Canadian Music Competition in Quebec this year.
“They are some of the best musicians in Canada at this age,” Wheatley-Brown said. “People are really inspired to hear such talent at such a young age. The kids work so hard to get where they are. The other piece of the puzzle is we are giving them a great performance experience.”
Starting the season off with young talent has become a tradition for the High River Gift of Music Concert Series.
“It’s what we have been doing for the last five years,” she said. “We always start with young, promising gifted musicians.”
The concert series’ fall performance is the Yadong Guan Trio on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. It will also take place at the Highwood Golf and Country Club.
Wheatley-Brown said repairs to the High River United Church should be complete by December, when the concert series is hosting its Christmas concert, Baroque Christmas Around the World, on Dec. 8 at 3 p.m.
High River Gift of Music Series’ season ticket holders were ecstatic at the board’s decision to bring music back to the community, said Wheatley-Brown. She said the board sent out emails informing them the September show was not cancelled.
“I’ve had really heartwarming responses,” she said. “One woman said, ‘I almost cried when I got your email.’ It’s devastating to walk through town and when she got the email that we are going to continue with the concert series she felt we had given her hope.”
Board members received emails from ticket holders thanking them, she said.
“People are so thankful and grateful we are going to get back to some kind of normalcy and still have some wonderful music in High River,” she said.
For more information about the High River Gift of Music Concert Series or to purchase season passes or tickets go to www.highrivergiftofmusic.com