Conductor Stuart Martin with members of Surrey City Orchestra during a concert at Surrey Arts Centre in September 2018. (file photo)

With ‘Nutcracker’ and other concerts planned, Surrey City Orchestra looks for donors

Membership drive launched ahead of a Nov. 30 performance 'unlike any version you have seen before'

With a fall concert on the calendar and one in the works for spring, Surrey City Orchestra is in the midst of a membership drive.

To that end, on Oct. 3 the organization hosted an invite-only gathering at a Rosemary Heights-area home, where singer Mark “Mr. O Canada” Donnelly performed with a string quartet.

“We had good conversations, and the people who were there seem motivated to help us,” said Ellen Farrugia, a violinist who co-founded the orchestra a couple years ago and serves as its board chair.

Membership gives patrons “an inside scoop on the orchestra, first dibs on tickets and things like that,” she noted.

“We’ll have different levels of membership, and the $20 level is the most common level,” Farrugia added.

“We want people to know about us and what we’re doing. It’s really just to spread more awareness about this orchestra as we move forward and make all these concerts happen – the ones we have ideas for.”

• RELATED STORY: Fledgling Surrey City Orchestra tunes up for showcase concert Friday, from September 2018.

Officially, following several concerts at various venues over the past couple of years, 2019 is the inaugural season for the SCO, whose music director and conductor is Stuart Martin, a Semiahmoo Secondary grad.

He’ll have the baton when Surrey City Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s famed “The Nutcracker” at Chandos Pattison Auditorium on the night of Saturday, Nov. 30. The performance will feature Surrey Children’s Choir along with dancers from four local groups, including Central Dance Academy, Ammara Dance Company, Hanyang Arts Society and Kvitka Ukrainian School of Dance.

Promises a post at surreycityorchestra.org: “Featuring local, cross-cultural dance and chorale groups, this performance of The Nutcracker celebrates the incredible talents and diverse backgrounds of Surrey’s dance and vocal artists, and will be unlike any version you have seen before.”

Tickets for the concert start at $25 each at brownpapertickets.com.

Farrugia said another SCO concert, called “The Best of Bollywood,” is planned in March at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre. “It’s something that was done in Birmingham, England, with an orchestra and some players of Indian instruments, dancers and singers, and we’ll be doing that,” she said.

Further ahead, Farrugia said SCO concert plans involve a space-themed performance of ‎Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” suite, and possibly a show done with a Beatles tribute band.

“The problem is venues, really,” she said. “It’s such a nightmare to find something that’s available, first of all, and something that works for us. It’s going to be a thorn in my side until something gets built in Surrey.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2017: Surrey City Orchestra idea hits right notes with backers, who eye proposed concert hall as home.

The topic of funding for the orchestra was raised by Farrugia at a recent meeting of Surrey’s Parks, Recreation & Culture Committee.

“I made the point of how much funding orchestras get in other cities and towns, and it’s much more than what’s available in Surrey,” Farrugia told the Now-Leader. “For example, in Kamloops the orchestra receives $62,000 from the city, and we get a cultural grant of $10,000. I hoped to make a point that other cities help their orchestras with money in addition to cultural grants, but we’re told we won’t be getting any additional funding, beyond that.”

The SCO will continue to look for other sources of funding, she said.

“It is what it is,” Farrugia said, “and we just have to look for other grants, provincially and federally and private sponsorships. We’ve joined the Surrey Board of Trade, so I’m hoping to get familiar with a lot of people there. They’re holding a welcome breakfast for new members, and that will be just before our concert we have planned (at the end of November), so that’s good.”

In an email to prospective members, the SCO’s vision is “to attract talented artists to live and work in Surrey so they may contribute to the community by providing music education to youth and quality performances that partner other organizations in Surrey, thus contributing to industries in the local economy.

“Having a local orchestra also means keeping local entertainment dollars in our city,” the email continues. “Surrey has the capacity to nurture young musician through lessons, music festivals, the Surrey Youth Orchestra, the music department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and now local employment in the Surrey City Orchestra. Support for the music community at all levels, means that the city can retain its artists and grow the cultural sector, rather than lose talent to other regions.”


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