On Sunday, June 11th, the Canadian Music Centre in BC presented Norman Nelson with a Barbara Pentland Award of Excellence for his many years of dedicated service to Canadian music. As a founding member of the legendary Purcell Quartet, Norman Nelson commissioned and premiered dozens of works by leading Canadian composers during the quartet’s existence between 1968 and 1991.

Maestro Nelson founded the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997, and continues to hold the position of Music Director. CMC BC Head Librarian Stefan Hintersteininger made the presentation at the final concert of the Sooke Philharmonic’s 2016/17 season at the Royal Bay Secondary School’s Teechamitsa Theatre in Colwood. The setting could not have been better chosen, given the theatre’s location atop rolling hills overlooking the sea.

The concert, entitled Harmony by the Sea, featured Maestro Nelson leading the orchestra in Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, the latter’s demanding solo part expertly handled by 4th year Victoria Conservatory of Music student Ya-Ping Huang. The orchestra played with tremendous elegance, spirit and dedication, a testament to Maestro Nelson’s inspired leadership over two decades.

After the interval, Maestro Nelson turned over the baton to SPO Choral Director Nicholas Fairbank, who led the orchestra and chorus in a moving performance of his own Sea Cantata. A substantial work in seven movements, the Sea Cantata was inspired partly by the composer’s own sea journeys, and incorporates maritime poetry by Carl Sandburg, Walter de la Mare, Robert Service, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Rudyard Kipling and others. The texts, the composer notes, “have to do with ships, the ocean, and the people who live by them.” Fairbank, a master of choral writing, captured exquisitely the tone and feeling of each poem in music.