The Cowichan Camerata String Orchestra is now rehearsing for their winter show. (Submitted)

Lexi Bainas column: Music is wonderful year round, as you’ll see this week

Strings or ukulele: there are so many chances in the community to share your love of music

The Cowichan Camerata String Orchestra is getting ready for a concert entitled Midwinter String Medley.

The show is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 29 at Duncan United Church starting at 7:30 p.m.

According to the group’s publicist, Woody Reimer, it’s time to “come in from the cold and listen to a medley of warm and melodious classical string orchestra pieces to usher in the advent season.”

Cowichan’s community string orchestra under the direction of Chris Redsell will be playing Gustav Holst’s “masterfully crafted and tuneful St. Paul Suite, which includes the familiar ‘Greensleeves’ melody in the final movement. Breathe in beautiful classics of Handel, Vivaldi and Sibelius. Anticipate hearing the charming melodious ‘Arietta’ by Pergolesi in which our guest soprano will make a surprise appearance. There will be an instrumental arrangement of ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ for the strings and soprano recorder.”

The audience will be invited to sing along with other traditional carols, accompanied by the strings.

Redsell, a professional violist, together with guest accordion player and arranger, Elisabeth Jahren, will present “a musical gift for all to enjoy,” Reimer says and urges everyone to “stay a little after the performance to enjoy refreshments provided by the orchestra and talk about a favourite take-away melody that will lead you into that most wonderful time of the year.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, and $5 for youth (13-18) with children 12 and under admitted free.

Interested in this enthusiastic group? Check out www.cowichancamerata.org or https://www.facebook.com/CowichanCamerata/

***

I received a chatty note recently from a Lake Cowichan friend from long ago, Al Lawrence.

He explained that years ago, he bought a banjo and learned along the way from famous banjo man Fred Borgerson [who was well-known at Cowichan Lake] that many British banjo players tuned their banjo to the same tuning as the ukulele.

“Well, since I was kind of busy at that time running a store, building a house, and raising twins, the banjo spent most of the time in its case. Years later, still having the banjo, but not yet playing more that a couple of chords, and strumming a tenor ukulele owned by Nels Olson [another beloved Lake Cowichan Swede and old pal of Borgerson] one evening, I recalled what Fred had told me.

“I was keeping busy with volunteer work, and had joined several groups. Then, I noted Elder College was offering a beginner’s ukulele course. Hmmm, I thought.

“So, I purchased a silly little ukulele and a tuner. The tuner cost more than the ukulele, however, then I enrolled in the beginner class. When the class was completed, myself and some other students asked, ‘What’s next?’, and it was suggested we get together and practice. Five of us crammed into my trailer park home for several weekly sessions. Then winter came and the group dispersed to Hawaii, Mexico, Phoenix, etc.

“Meanwhile, the Elder College instructor suffered some health issues, and gave up teaching for a time. I had been thanking her on her classes, as I was a member of the Elder College Committee, before she became ill, so, I offered to teach the course.

“In my first class, I was asked by three ladies, members of the Valley Seniors Organization, to start a beginner’s class at the VSO center.

“Quite a commitment, I thought. However, I was urged to submit a letter or request, which I did, and Darn it! I was accepted. So, for a year, I instructed people who had never played anything. At first, it was twice a month, then gradually, as space allowed, we were granted every Friday to play. Today, we have 25-30 regular ukulele players every Friday. Most are from my beginner classes. Recently I held a 12-person class with Elder College. We also gather at the Small Block Brewery every Sunday, for a brew and a strum-along. A few of our group in Mill Bay have formed their own small group. Another has recently formed a beginner’s group in Chemainus. He has about 20 attendees meeting every Tuesday.

This ukulele-playing idea is really gaining a footprint in the Valley, too, according to Lawrence.

“We opened the stage for Sunday, July 1, at the 39 Days of July, with John Falkner, and wowed the crowd. The 17 of us played 17 songs in the hour we performed.”

The group impressed both crowd and event organizers.

“John asked us back next year, ” Lawrence concluded proudly.

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