Orchestra conductor Les Dala said he felt it from the start. There was electricity in the air.
A Night at the Movies concert was a night to remember, thanks to musicians who played from the heart and guest soloist Veera Khare Asher who sang from the depths of her soul.
For me, the magic came from the music, the maestro and the audience. All three.
Looking around Vanier Hall Saturday night, I saw more smiling, happy children and young adults than at any other PGSO concert I’ve attended. Pops in the Park is fun for families but with an outdoor venue, people come and go. This concert was more about enjoyment than strict etiquette and it was nice to see young people having a great time.
The playful atmosphere was helped by Dominique Bernath who showed off PGSOs latest instrument acquisition, a xylophone, by playing Bach Meets Bugs. Later on, I noticed Bernath was kept busy in percussion section, jumping from timpani to orchestra bells. She shone brightly too on recorder with hauntingly beautiful music from Titanic.
The wonderful themes and soundtracks plucked from six decades of memorable movie scores seemed endless. Each one more moving than the last. If I had to choose, it would be the orchestra’s perfect performance of songs from The Sound of Music, notably the title song, Edelweiss and an eye-misting, triumphant Climb Every Mountain.
Or maybe the exciting theme music from James Bond movies, especially For Your Eyes Only and Goldfinger. But as an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, I loved the medley from Phantom of the Opera. Mind you, my friend thought PGSOs music from Pirates of the Caribbean was her cup of tea.
You can see the problem.
After intermission, I gave up trying to pick favourites. I did notice that 2001: A Space Odyssey fanfare got rave reviews from students behind me. The orchestra ended the evening dramatically with stirring music from The Star Wars Epic – Part II and it was a treat to hear Princess Leia’s Theme performed so beautifully.
Now for the star of the show.
I think the fine orchestra will forgive me for singling out guest soloist Veera Khare Asher but when she made her grand entrance in black formal gown, dangling glitter earrings and with her hair swept up in Hollywood glamour, she turned up the room’s electricity Dala talked about. This extraordinary gifted and graceful woman makes us very proud.
Born and raised in Prince George, she sang her heart out here and played violin with the PGSO. Now married and living in Las Vegas, the classically trained singer has a skyrocketing music career performing, teaching and aiming for her doctorate in musical arts.
She returned here to a warm reception from people who could not help but love her. They were spellbound with her Puccini arias and her reach for the stars rendering of songs from The Phantom of the Opera.
She charmed us with an in-character, flirty cocquettish delivery of Mussetta’s Waltz from La Boheme. However, the amazing range and clarity of her voice was best showcased I think when she sang My Heart Will Go On from Titanic. She sang it in Italian and though I don’t understand a word of Italian, her sweet, soaring rendition brought tears to my eyes. Bravo.
People were on their feet, cheering. Maybe that was a concert faux pas but nobody cared. They wanted to let her know how much they loved her singing and how much her return to Prince George meant to them.
After the concert, I was wedging my way into the line-up of cars exiting PGSS parking lot and saw weary but smiling musicians with their instruments. I thought about Dala telling us how much work it is for the orchestra putting together a performance of this calibre particularly the brass section who would have sore lips by the end of the evening.
Well, that’s only fair Mr. Dala. We have sore hands from clapping.