Watching cultural organizations grow and bloom is beautiful to Eveline O’Rourke.
For more than 15 years she has dedicated her time to ensuring the cultural fabric of the community continues to develop. In mid-March she was honoured for that dedication during the City of Nanaimo Cultural Awards at the Port Theatre. She received the Honour in Culture award, given to people who have dedicated and supported cultural growth in the community. The Vancouver Island Symphony was given the Excellence in Culture award.
When O’Rourke learned she was receiving the award from a friend she thought it was a jest.
“I thought she was joking so I laughed. I couldn’t believe it actually. I am certainly honoured,” she said. “I devoted myself to things I believe in.”
O’Rourke was involved in bringing the dream of a professional orchestra in Nanaimo to life. She said the idea appealed to her and in 1995 the symphony was launched. It started with performances in St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
“The first concert was just thrilling. It was packed,” she said.
Then in 1998 she had the pleasure of seeing the Port Theatre open. She said it was so rare that a concert hall opened in Canada that dignitaries and press from across the country attended the opening.
“It’s a big occasion,” said O’Rourke. “During the opening of the concert hall there were five trumpets in the top lodge playing this fanfare. It was so startling and so moving. It was one of the prominent highlights in my life.”
The Port Theatre is home to the Vancouver Island Symphony. Pierre Simard, the symphony’s conductor, said he’s proud to be part of such great music making.
“I am thrilled that we have a symphony with musicians of such quality on the Island,” said Simard. “Their devotion, professionalism, enthusiasm and team spirit make it a pleasure to conduct with them monthly.”
The orchestra is able to inspire future generations of musicians with its community days and kids programs.
“I am a father of three myself … so I am a direct witness of the importance and impact of the arts and music in particular,” Simard said. “We bring them on a unexpected and unusual journey of discovery of four centuries of history… we hope that music will stay with them for all their lives and will become an important part of their development as human beings.”
Simard said the symphony is embarking on an exciting season. It has launched a five-year project, which asks five composers to write five new concertos for the principal players over the next five years.