An Evening to Say ‘Thank You’

 An Evening to Say ‘Thank You’

By D.T. Baker, Musicologist

Those who were around when the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation board was struck in the early ‘90s will remember it as the non-profit, and largely fund-raising body that made the Francis Winspear Centre for Music a reality. With the backing of peerless mentors such as the late Senator Tommy Banks, and the deep and generous pockets of Dr. Francis Winspear and others, the foundation eventually accomplished the dream of a pristine and sonically resplendent concert hall for our community – and stayed (say it with me now!) “On time and on budget,” to quote the Winspear Centre’s then President and CEO Bob McPhee.

Ah yes – the budget. Compromises were made along the way – budgets are moving targets, and the entire dream of Dr. Winspear and the rest were put on hold for a time. Ensuring that any budget trimming did not affect the acoustic spaces, the hall, which opened in 1997, has rightfully taken its place as one of the great performance venues. But the original vision of a place that would truly be the centre of music for this diverse and rapidly growing community is finally becoming realized.

This is a fancy way of saying that that big construction site on the back of the original Winspear Centre building is bringing the Winspear Centre new life. And the funds raised 25 years ago were the seeds from which new fundraising has needed to take place. The Capital Campaign has been actively engaged in raising those funds for years now, and new and eager members of the community are providing their talent and vision to the cause.

Like Bill Eddins. The Music Director Emeritus of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is still very much involved in the growth of the Winspear Centre, and has been part of the team that has helped design, re-design, go back the drawing board, and re-design.

Like Jens Lindemann. The Edmonton-raised trumpet virtuoso, who was mentored both musically and in fostering a sense of community responsibility by Tommy Banks. From the outset, Jens was a part of the Capital Campaign Cabinet, says campaign chair and ESO board member Sheryl Bowhay.

“There’s a back story to this,” Ms. Bowhay confesses. “Jens and I went to music camp together – MusiCamrose, 1982! He was in the trumpet section, so I didn’t really get a chance to know him from where I was in the front row. But right from the get-go, Jens was part of (the campaign cabinet). And he’s so good at acknowledging the people around him. I remember having breakfast with him one Saturday morning, and he was saying, ‘I’ve got this idea – I’ve got this new arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue, it would be so good to use this for the campaign – let’s do it right now! Let’s just do it on the stage with the people that have given the leadership gifts.’ And you can’t help but be enthused by Jens.”

That idea has morphed into a donor thank you event on November 15, which will see Jens lead an all-star big band on stage, performing music from Then is Now, a recording released in late 2021 on the Riverside Classics label. On it, Jens and an all-star band pay tribute to both mentors and jazz giants. “Then is Now is a celebration of legacy and how great music stands the test of time by being as relevant today as it was yesterday,” Lindemann has said. A highlight of the recording is George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in a new arrangement by Matt Catingub for Jens’ trumpet prowess backed by a big band.

“It is intended as an appreciation – a huge thank you – to each of our donors to the Capital Campaign to date,” says Bowhay of the November 15 evening. “We are acknowledging every gift that we have received, from the inception of the silent campaign all the way to today.”

Donors will have received invitations to the event – and naturally, it is hoped that other potential donors will be inspired as well. “What excites me is that during the initial process, we were having strategic conversations with organizations and individuals,” Bowhay says. “But during that time frame it rippled out into the community, and we would receive random gifts – 200 dollars or 25 dollars – and I love that.”

For more information on everything the Winspear Centre is in the process of becoming, you can click here. You can bet there will be buttons to click if you wish to donate as well.

Oh yeah – Bill Eddins. He was mentioned earlier, and there’s a reason for that. While well-known Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker was featured on Jens’ recording of Rhapsody in Blue, Bill Eddins will be in town to take on that role at the donor thank you event. “With Jens and Bill on the stage working together – no need to add speaking notes!” Bowhay says from experience.

The new arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue is a perfect metaphor for what the Winspear Centre’s project hopes to be. The actual production of it necessitated musicians recording their individual parts in the COVID world of isolation, then putting them all together later. “Producing Rhapsody in Blue with everyone sequestered and recording alone from coast to coast during a worldwide pandemic is the quintessential reason for remembering that great music not only continues, it also brings us together,” Lindemann said.