The Sidney Classical Orchestra, here seen supporting violinist Rebecca Reader-Lee during the 2017 edition of the annual Young Soloist Concert, faces a shortfall of cash and volunteers. (Black Press Media File)

Lack of volunteers may silence Sidney Classical Orchestra

SCO has already cancelled one of its four shows scheduled for this season

A shortage of volunteers may force a local classical orchestra to curtail future performances.

The Sidney Classical Orchestra (SCO) has already cancelled one of its four shows scheduled for the 2019-2020 season and may cancel additional shows if it cannot find volunteers to serve in various administrative functions.

The SCO has been performing for 26 years, playing classical favourites from Beethoven, Bach and others. Depending on availability, the orchestra features up to 20 musicians paid at union rates.

“For this year, we should be able to do two concerts, one of them being the young soloist concert,” said Ian Reid, a SCO board member in an interview with the Peninsula News Review. “If we are quick, we could maybe do a third.”

The orchestra could end up cancelling up to half of its regularly scheduled shows, a development that would limit cultural offerings in the community and deny musicians opportunities to develop their respective careers as the SCO often serves as a stepping stone.

Within this context, the SCO stages an annual show featuring young soloists from the area. Many of the students go on to the best music schools in North America and professional careers locally and elsewhere, such as Nicki Chooi who became concertmaster for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

RELATED: Sidney Classical Orchestra returns with four-concert season

RELATED: Eight young soloists selected to play with the Sidney Classical Orchestra

RELATED: Sidney Classical Orchestra hosts former dean of Victoria Conservatory

“We are pretty well the only classical concert society in Sidney and on the Peninsula,” he said. “There are bands, there are concerts, but it is also popular, more modern stuff. So we will have lost that classical music. And it would be a loss to the young musicians who want to make it a career.”

Reid said the SCO decided to cancel its first show of the 2019-2020 season following the society’s annual general meeting in late October, a point he had made earlier in an email to supporters that called the need for volunteers “urgent.”

“We still have an excellent artistic director [Stephen Brown] and willing musicians,” he said. “You are now being asked to rescue the remaining concert season by offering your time and talent to fill administrative positions.”

Brown is a published composer who has taught at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. An Associate of the Canadian Music Centre, Brown has had his work performed by the Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria symphony orchestras. He also handles administrative duties, but his current composing work has overwhelmed him, said Reid.

Reid said later that the orchestra has basically reached a “standstill” in listing the open positions that the society needs to fill. “We need a treasurer, we need a fundraiser, we need community relations, and maybe one other [volunteer],” said Reid. “And before the season is out, we need a president.”

So why is the society struggling to fill these positions?

“People are so busy, and a lot of them don’t want to get involved,” he said. “In my view, we do need some younger blood – somebody who has just retired, somebody in their late 50s, early 60s, couples, would be just excellent.”

The orchestra also faces financial troubles. Minutes from the society’s AGM show that private donations and audience numbers were down, while musician fees are up.

The society’s balance sheet shows just under $2,000, which in the words of Brown was “not enough to present a concert season.”

Overall, financial statements ending on June 30, 2019 show expenses exceeded revenues by almost $3,000, the main reason being the loss of a grant from the Capital Regional District of $6,000, according to the documents. Grants from North Saanich ($500) and an increase in the grant from Sidney to $1,500 helped to partially offset this loss. This said, the society received a gaming grant worth $6,000 to stage its concert for young soloists.

Reid said the SCO’s appeal for volunteers has yielded some results, and all its current troubles, Reid still sees the orchestra around in five years.

“We are going to get it going,” he said. “And Stephen feels it is going to get going.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police watchdog clears West Shore RCMP in altercation that led to man needing 82 staples

The man pretended he had a weapon he would use against the police

Vehicle bursts into flames due to mechanical failure, occupants escape injury

View Royal firefighters were on scene less than five minutes after the first 911 call

No one injured in Saanich townhouse fire

Blaze may have been connected to fireplace use

West Shore RCMP snag suspect in early morning mail theft

Citizen call leads officers to quickly locate suspect

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

Most Read