For the love of music: Burnaby seniors orchestra returns to live performance
“Most of the members of the orchestra are seniors. ... And now that they're retired, they feel the need to fill that void with more music."
This Sunday, a dozen or so classical musicians from Burnaby, many of them seniors, will take to the stage for their first live performance in more than two years.
The concert at Deer Lake Gallery on June 5 also marks a rare public concert by Elgar Strings Orchestra—prior to the pandemic, the group usually performed only at local seniors’ homes.
“Most of the members of the orchestra are seniors. Most of them, in fact, are retirees. These are people that have played their instruments all their lives. And now that they’re retired, they feel the need to fill that void with more music,” said conductor Luis Medina.
“Or they feel like they want to get back into it as they may have played before.”
Members of the orchestra, which Medina said was formed in 1999, usually meet Friday mornings from 10-12 to rehearse.
That, of course, changed when the pandemic hit. The orchestra switched to monthly Zoom meetings instead.
Along with the loss of their practice time, the orchestra members also lost out on a little bit of community—something Medina said is an important aspect of their time together.
“The primary function of the orchestra is for them to be able to play music together. But many of them find being able to get together and play music a way to just stay connected with each other. In fact, it’s funny, because sometimes we have a break in the middle of rehearsals, but we try not to over indulge too much. Because we get on with chit-chat and having fun,” he said.
“So then we’re like, ‘Okay, we’re good guys, we should probably get back to music’. So I can definitely say that it’s a way for them to stay connected with each other … and to the love of playing music.”
The group is thrilled to return to live performances this Sunday. The concert will feature well-known pieces from composers including Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, and the group’s namesake, Elgar.
Medina said this may be the first time ever the Elgar Strings Orchestra has performed for the public.
The event is being organized by Deer Lake Gallery, and Medina said staff there are taking care of the venue and advertising as well. This is the first time the orchestra has ever had a photo taken of themselves for a poster, and they are thrilled at the idea.
“Everybody was really excited to take one home. Some of them asked for an extra one, so they could put it in their living room—they’re pretty stoked about it.”
The concert is free to attend, although donations for a fundraiser are welcomed. Proceeds will go to things like a small honorarium for volunteers like Medina, and paying rent for practice space. There will also be a reception following the show with a bake sale.
Medina also wants to raise money to make sure that members of the orchestra won’t have to pay fees, and can simply come together to follow their passions.
“The main thing is just that it’s a group of music lovers who have been playing music for their entire lives, and they just enjoy getting together to—not just play for each other, but also with everybody else,” he said.
“They’re just the best type of music enthusiasts that you’ll find, I think.”
You can register for the concert and make a donation here.