The conductor wore blue jeans, the clarinetist wore pink platform-soled boots and the violinists showed off their jive-dancing skills.
Sunday night’s Okanagan Symphony Orchestra performance was anything but business as usual.
The Pops Special Madmen Across the Water featured Jeans ‘n Classics performing the music of Elton John with the OSO.
It was a departure for musicians and audiences alike, and under the leadership of music director Rosemary Thomson, the OSO put on a fabulous show.
Jeans ‘n Classics brings together rock musicians and symphonies, with lead singer Jean Meilleur singing the familiar songs.
From the opening notes of Funeral for a Friend, I was taken on an emotional trip down memory lane. The music of Elton John was truly the soundtrack of my teen years. I owned every album and was privileged to see him in concert twice (still remember the ticket price of $8.50). But my love of his music also got me through a tough time — as music so often does.
When I started Grade 8, it was at a school where I knew no one. All of my friends had gone to a different school, so I was nervous. But what they used to do was match up new kids with a seasoned veteran who would show you around, introduce you to people and make you feel a little less alone.
Unfortunately for me, the girl I was matched with was not one of the girls deemed popular by those in the cool group, so I was also deemed not cool by association. Yes, there is nothing like a group of 13-year-old girls putting you in your place, not to mention the human capacity for making a snap judgement of someone that is based on absolutely no knowledge whatsoever.
But one day, I brought in the glossy program from the Elton John concert I had attended and I had it on my desk. Those same girls who assumed I was not worthy of their attention suddenly saw me with new eyes. If I liked a popular rock star and had seen him in concert, then I must be OK.
So to sit in the gorgeous auditorium of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre with a friend who is also of the same vintage and sing along to some of my favourite songs was to be transported back to my teens.
And I was thrilled to see an almost full house because I still remember when the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was forced to disband due to dwindling support. Fortunately, the VSO was brought back to life, but Thomson’s words resonated for me when she said, “Having a symphony orchestra is not a right, it’s a privilege.” And we are indeed lucky to have this orchestra in the Okanagan.
And in the case of the OSO, Thomson brings not only talent, warmth and a sense of humour, she also brings a voice. Yes, the maestra was not only wearing blue jeans but she also put down her baton for one number and sang Someone Saved My Life Tonight.
And kudos also to those jive-dancing violinists Denis Letourneau and Susan Schaffer, as well as stylish clarinetist Lucy Benwell, who went through an entire can of pink spray paint to transform a pair of Value Village boots into something worthy of ‘70s era rock.