Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Happy Canada Day 2020

Happy Canada Day everyone.
So glad to be living here at this challenging time on Planet Earth.

 I thought you might like to see this video of the Tenors as they salute Canada this year, and invited people across the country to participate.

Thank you Tenors, thank you Fraser, and all who participated.

Peace and good health to all

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

3 Knights with a Tenor - Ken Lavigne

on Vancouver Island

Thursday, March 26, 2020
7:30 p.m.
Port Theatre, Nanaimo

Ken Lavigne has stolen the hearts of concert goers across North America with his captivating blend of classical tenor sound and contemporary style. He takes his audience on a riveting and exciting adventure with spectacular songs and hilarious stories from his personal experiences. 3 Knights with a Tenor, an admittedly cheeky title, features the music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John.
“Outstanding.” – The Globe and Mail

PS. YES! Ken is an awesome entertainer. For tickets visit
See interviews and reviews at

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

James Nelson of The Celtic Tenors returns to Opera Roots in May

Gianna Schicchi - by Puccini
at the BlackValley Opera Festival
Lismore Castle, Lismore,
Co. Waterford, Ireland
May 2020

Recently James Nelson (left), sent out word about an exciting new (but not so new) venture:

"Happy to announce that in between all of our Celtic Tenors tours, this May I'm getting the opportunity to briefly return to my opera roots, singing the character/ensemble role of Gherardo, one of the nasty money-grabbing relatives in Puccini's only comic opera 'Gianni Schicchi' - with the BlackValley Opera Festival, in the stunning surrounds of Lismore Castle.

Last time I sang the role was with Opera Holland Park, in London, in the late 1990's, just before becoming a Celtic Tenor."

Wishing you all the best James on this role.
Tickets can be purchased at the

Celtic Tenors in Vancouver,
March 27, 2020

And for Celtic Tenor fans in British Columbia, Canada, the group are performing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on March 27, 2020 at 8 p.m. This is part of the VSO Pops Concerts series. Information and tickets are available at A concert not to be missed!

For behind-the-scenes interviews with each of the tenors visit:

And visit their website at: for the latest news, tours, recordings.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Ken Lavigne Vancouver Island Tour - Let Me Be Frank!

For all the folks I know on Vancouver Island, and folks I don't know. He is terrific!
Starting April 26 through to May 11 - in communities from Victoria to Port Alberni, Campbell River, Parksville, Sidney and Chemainus. Evenings of pure delight!!

Deeply talented singer and composer, recording artist and charming entertainer, Ken Lavigne kicks off Spring with a seven-stop Vancouver Island tour.
This Spring Tour features Ken's latest concert creation, Let me be Frank! and celebrates the velvet tones of much-loved crooners from Frank Sinatra to Michael Bublé.
Audiences can expect to hear an excellent night of music! All their favourite songs – Fly Me to the Moon, All of Me, Sway, As Time Goes By, Ain’t That a Kick in the Head and Save the Last Dance and more… performed with undeniable style by Vancouver Island's favourite tenor, backed by a seven-piece band with all the classic arrangements we know and love.


“I love the timeless romance of the melodies and the unabashed sincerity of the sentiment in the lyrics...
Oh yeah, and the sense of swagger!"

~ Ken Lavigne
So, why a crooner tour?
Ken didn’t grow up with this style of music but he wasn’t very old when it caught his attention. “I actually fell in love with this style when I was in high school and Harry Connick Jr. was out touring with his brand of crooning style,” Lavigne explains. “I would put on a fedora and imitate my best Sinatra in front of the mirror … fuggedaboudit!”
For Lavigne, this music evokes a more romantic time in history, a time when dating and love were a little more mysterious, a little more special than simply a photo or status change on Facebook. “The crooners’ corner is all about simplicity, smooth vocals, and style,” he says. “For me it evokes a time when the anticipation of going out on the town came with a real sense of occasion, when air travel was glamorous, when being in love was worth singing about and the future was hopeful.”
The crooners and their timeless lyrics take the listener on an emotional ride from expectation and the thrill of a first kiss, to heartbreak and loneliness. And it’s all backed up with musical scores that melt the heart and sear the soul.
The "Let me be Frank!" Vancouver Island Spring Tour kicks off on April 26 in Victoria at Church of the Advent and include stops at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni on April 27th, Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre on April 28th, Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on May 4th, Parksville’s Knox United Church on May 10th and a final two show-stop in Chemainus at the Chemainus United Church on May 11th.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Discovery! A Tribute to Women Composers with the Vancouver Island Symphony

The Vancouver Island Symphony presents
Discovery! A Tribute to Women Composers
Saturday, January 19, 7:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. Pre-Concert Talk)
The Port Theatre, Nanaimo BC
Guest Artist: Paolo Bortolussi, Flute
Conductor: Pierre Simard
With works by:
Joan TOWER   For the Uncommon Woman
Cécile CHAMINADE   Flute Concertino, op. 107
Jennifer HIGDON     blue cathedral
Jocelyn MORLOCK     Ornithomancy
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV     Scheherazade, op. 35

Two American orchestral standards are performed alongside two short works for flute and orchestra, with soloist and VIS Principal Flutist Paolo Bortolussi. The program concludes with the greatest musical homage to women’s Grace, Beauty and Mind – Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

For tickets visit: Port Theatre TIcket Centre:  or call 250-754-8550.
For more information visit:

For an interview article with Paolo Bortolussi visit: .

2019 - a year of changes ahead - and positive vibration - Yeah!

Greetings readers,

And Happy New Year. 2019 is definitely going to be a year of change, in so many ways. Hold on to your hats!

While I don't get many readers, that I know of, I am continuing with this blog, posting whenever I get information, or find out about an event. Social media and arts promotion have really changed in the past few years and promotions are done through Twitter and Facebook, and many other means, however, I shall plod ahead with the 'old' way of blogging.

The Quills Quotes & Notes website ( has undergone huge changes to the design, updating the many articles about artists, and general interest subjects, and of course, on my own publications and works. I hadn't done anything to the site since 2012 so this is a wonderful make-over - and because I don't have any special programs to do the changes, every page is handled, one at a time. And I have included the latest news about the artists in the articles, such as Ian Parker, pianist and now conductor ( I hope these articles continue to provide interest and promotion ideas.

So watch here for information on concerts and events.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Candle of Light

Season's Greetings to One and All!
For the Festive Season of Light (be it Solstice, Hanukka, Christmas and more) in the Northern Hemisphere, after December 21, the shortest day and the longest night of the year, there will be 2 minutes more light... every day.

To celebrate, this year I have posted "A Candle of Light" as a sing-along video.
Wishing you all peace, comfort, joy and love over this Festive Season and throughout 2019.
With gratitude for all that is

Monday, April 9, 2018

One Seed for Earth Day at Hutton Elementary

Earth Day is fast approaching and a joy for me is to present with children in a school. This year I have been invited to Hutton Elementary School in Grand Forks, my home town, to present One Seed and talk with the children about growing a garden. Grades 1 and 2 are in for some fun. And it is hoped there will be some art to add to the One Seed Kids Art Gallery on the web site.
That's Monday, April 23, at 9:30 p.m.
"It took one seed to make a diff'rence!"

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Gathering to remember Graeme David Willson

There will be a Gathering to remember Graeme David Willson
On Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 2 p.m.
at the Senior's Centre in Grand Forks City Park
Refreshments provided.
It was his last party. Alone in his trailer, 52-year-old Graeme David Willson succumbed to a fatal dose of fentanyl. He was found on December 1, 2017.

Graeme was the grandson of the late Katherine Berg of Grand Forks, and son of the late Sonia Willson. In 1995, with Graeme (who was self-taught and had a natural gift for design, decoration, and gourmet cooking) they purchased the derelict Victorian mansion overlooking the city and transformed it into Golden Heights Estate Inn and Restaurant (see photos below). It became a work of art, was the ‘in’ place to meet and eat, and was used to promote the City of Grand Forks. Tragically, through unfortunate timing and events beyond their control (as victims of embezzlement and legal misconduct), in 2002 Graeme and Sonia lost their total investment, valued at over $1 million.

While Graeme had moments of total despair, challenges with mental health, and an eventual opioid addiction, underneath he was a gentle soul. He had his good and bad moments. Many were hurt by his actions, many disliked him, while others loved him unconditionally. We can but ask, ‘What if…”

May your soul finally find peace, Graeme. May you be surrounded by love.

Donations in memory of Graeme may be made to Whispers of Hope.

Graeme with his grandmother Katherine Berg at Golden Heights, on her birthday.

The restored and renovated Golden Heights Estate Inn and Restaurant, Grand Forks BC

The original Golden Heights Victorian mansion overlooking Grand Forks.

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Evening of Leonard Cohen - with Patricia O'Callaghan and the Vancouver Island Symphony

From Alleluia to Hallelujah
An interview with Patricia O’Callaghan
By Rosemary Phillips

What have German cabaret songs, lieder (art songs) and Leonard Cohen got in common? Canadian singer Patricia O’Callaghan.

“O'Callaghan enters into the world of a song and gives it a three-dimensional life, using a lower range as smokey as the room will become and an upper register that vibrates with passion.” - Now Magazine

“I found the songs of Leonard Cohen blended in with the likes of Schubert’s Alleluia; and Cohen’s Take This Waltz is more like an art song than pop. I mixed Cohen and high art, and loved it, and found it very inspiring,” said O’Callaghan who will be performing An Evening of Leonard Cohen with the Vancouver Island Symphony in a moving tribute at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Saturday, November 18.

“I got more and more into Cohen’s music and made a whole album of his songs,” she added. “It’s really good poetry, very evocative; keeps me going back because it’s surprising, unexpected poetry. It bears several readings and listenings for there’s always more to uncover.”

”…her tender versions of Cohen's ‘Take this Waltz’ and ‘Hallelujah’ are revelatory.” - Timothy White, Billboard Magazine

And here we uncover a bit of O’Callaghan whose journey with music and song has taken many years and miles, starting when she was only five years old. “My mother entered me in a singing competition, for fun. I won and that impacted me. There was a musical drive in me and Mum started me on piano lessons as soon as I could reach the keys.”

Meanwhile, O’Callaghan knew deep inside she wanted to be a singer. “Up there in rural Northern Ontario,” she explained, from her home in Toronto, “music education was pretty sparse so I took private piano lessons and sang on my own. While I was in high school in Iroquois Falls one of my English teachers, Brian Hanneberry, recognized the interest of some students and put on a few musicals. He was a really special guy. We had a band and when I was 16 my guidance counsellor, along with Brian Hanneberry, found a voice coach for me, Rosanne Simunovic of the Timmins Youth Singers, which was an hour’s drive away.”

After graduation O’Callaghan went on to study music at the University of Toronto where she was introduced to classical voice, then, at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, she continued with contemporary classical music and living composers. “I got a grant to study in Austria, which is a great place to start a career. I lived there for a year and it felt like I was living in another century. The opera repertoire and roles I would do were extremely rigid and constraining, which is not me. I was sure I didn’t want to be an opera singer - I enjoyed singing cabaret songs by Arnold Schoenberg and Kurt Weill. When I came back to Canada I started combining the two, bridging the styles, as a pioneer. I made a CD, got picked up by a label, got a record contract, made more albums and that’s how things took off for me.”

In 1997 O’Callaghan, who speaks French, German and Spanish, released Youkali, cabaret songs by Kurt Weil, Erik Satie and Francis Poulenc. This was followed by Slow Fox in 1999 which contains “Hallelujah,” the first of her many interpretations of Leonard Cohen, which culminated with Matador: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, released by Marquis Classics in 2012.

But what of being female singing male songs? “I find with Cohen’s poems and songs I like to sing them as a woman because it changes the context and makes you see the song in a different way. What’s the point of covering a song if you don’t have something new to bring to it, to offer something different from the original?”

Then she added, “I never did meet Cohen. We did a theatre piece based on one of his songs and were in touch by e-mail, but that was the closest I ever got.”

O’Callaghan began international touring, added credits in film, theatre and television; collaborated with leading composers, artists and The Gryphon Trio; conducts choirs and teaches. “I worked hard for a really long time. As a classical singer you don’t mature until you are about 30, and you have to be patient. I was doing what I loved to do, and yet I struggled with stage fright and insomnia. I had to find a way to deal with this without changing my career. It’s not as debilitating now as it was. Still, I can’t believe this is happening, the success I have had.”

“O’Callaghan sings her diverse material as if it was always meant to go side-by-side and by the end of the evening, it’s easy to believe her.”  - Chart Attack Magazine

Where to from here? “That’s a really good question. I’m at a point of reassessing everything in my life. I want to do more creating and co-creating, writing with other great musicians, and multidisciplinary artists. I want to keep recording, which I love to do. I want to keep travelling and exploring the boundaries of the voice and where it will take me as a singer and performer. Right now I’m taking a course in percussion.

“Part of me doesn’t know where I’m going next and a part of me has to be OK with that. I feel pretty lucky. I keep growing as an artist and goals change. I don’t know if I am living what I saw when I was 24, but I feel happy with what I have in my life. – Yes, I feel happy.”

This will be O’Callaghan’s first visit to Nanaimo. “It’s pretty exciting working with an orchestra. For the concert there will be some other songs mixed in, one by Edith Piaf, but it’s mostly Cohen. I will have my pianist, Robert Kortgaard, and double-bass player, Andrew Downing, plus the orchestra. It’s such a big sound, a very heightened experience!”

Tickets for this stirring tribute to the great Leonard Cohen are available by calling 250-754-8550.

For more information about the Vancouver Island Symphony visit
For information about Patricia O’Callaghan, her music and recordings visit

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Tribute to John Denver

Some may think it strange, a woman singing John Denver's music, but as you may see from the picture on the poster, we could have been brother and sister. He has been a part of my life all the way from Leaving on a Jet Plane to Perhaps Love to Yellowstone (Coming home); you might say, the feminine version. His messages through his songs are as relevant today as they were when he sang them, maybe even more so at this time of crisis. He is so very much alive, and is working for Planet Earth through people around the world, only from the 'other side' of life. His message - "I remain a living force in many lives and work for many on this side to bring to humanity's attention that all those people they have known and loved - and sometimes loathed! - live on in other realms." (From a message to me from John Denver through medium Jan Hunneybell in Australia.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Over the Rainbow - June 2 - New Westminster BC

The spotlight this month is on my own concert (June 2) and funshop (June 3) in New Westminster as a 'thank you' benefit for the Universal Brotherhood Spiritualist Church. Members of that church took a collection and donated towards helping me out when I was evacuated after the Wild Fire in Rock Creek/Westbridge. For this I will always be grateful.

The poster says it all.

I hope to see friends new and old, share some good songs, some creativity, and FUN.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Epic Spirit - Inventions - with the Vancouver Island Symphony

The Vancouver Island Symphony presents

Epic Spirit - Inventions
Saturday, April 22, 7:30 p.m. (Pre-Concert Talk, 6:30 p.m.)
Conductor and Composer: Pierre Simard
Guest Artists: Plan Omega Collective, Nadya Blanchette (Soprano, Narrator)
Jason Nett (Composer_, Nthalie Cusson (Film Director)
VIS Symphonic and Children's Choirs (Patricia Plumley, Director)
Port Theatre, 125 Front Street, Nanaimo BC
Tickets: 250-754-8550
Hope through Creation
NEW music, NEW concept, NEW and old IDEAS

Aptly titled “Epic Spirit – Inventions” the Vancouver Island Symphony’s powerful season finale on Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, opens with the monumental Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven - with its haunting and familiar notes of ‘fate knocking at the door’. Then comes an original, electrifying, new experience – Inventions – 14 movements in the Epic Music Style, with a sensational state-of-the-art audio-visual production, saluting inventions and inventors and their impact upon the course of life on this planet – from the wheel to the space shuttle.

World Premiere: Says a passionate Pierre Simard (conductor, composer and artistic director), “This is not only the premier of a composition, but, in Canada, of a whole-show concept!”

Movie Music: “I found software which has brought me to the world of music for video games, TV and cinema – music I am very interested in. I discovered recordings of live instruments and libraries with very high level samples. This has driven my composing and creative process in new, unexpected and exciting ways!”

The Epic Music Style: “Movie composers like Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King, Driving Miss Daisy, The Dark Knight etc.), Michael Giacchino (Up, Lost, Rogue One) and Alexandre Desplat (Grand Budapest Hotel, The Queen) have built a bridge between traditional orchestra and electronic sound. Many new movie and Hollywood- blockbuster musical scores and trailers are in this style.”

The Team: And so, with Montreal film director Nathalie Cusson, vocal artist and narrator Nadya Blanchette, and Nanaimo-native composer Jason Nett, Simard has formed the Plan Omega Collective which has created a series of movie-type trailers portraying the Wheel (Nett), Compass, Printing Press, Flying Machine (Arnesen), Button and Scissors, Internal Combustion Engine (Nett), Light Bulb, Automobile, Penicillin, Atomic Bomb (with The Prayer by Ralph Vaughan Williams), Computer, and the soaring Space Shuttle.

Adds Simard, “For the first time, we will fuse the VIS orchestra, VIS Symphonic and Children’s choirs (director Patricia Plumley) and soloist on stage with electronic tracks that I will control from the podium. Not only am I composing original charts for the musicians and choirs but creating computer generated music that will fill the theatre. Onscreen will be original movies incorporating traditional film, computer generated motion graphics and stock footage.”

Facing Future: “How can we be the keepers of the flame?” asks Simard. “We must keep an eye to the past, but also be super current. This is a show about hope, for we are too bright a species to stop here. We are constantly bettering ourselves through new inventions. I am convinced the audience will remember this as an experience - like never before.”

Tickets for this performance are available at: 250-754-8550. Pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m.
For more information visit:

The Day the Wind Changed Book Launch

 The Day the Wind Changed

Once upon a time on a hill far away, lived some people who forgot how to play.
They forgot how to laugh, they forgot how to sing and they did the same things every day.

That was an awesome book launch, on Friday, March 24 at the Grand Forks Public Library - halfway through March Break. The weather was atrocious and yet about 15 children came with their grown-ups, to participate in the reading of the story, and then "Bringing it to Life"... as everyone got to take part.

Reading the story before bringing it to life.
The BIG BOOK pages were turned by two little volunteers while others read the characters of the Wind, the Sun, Hope, Children and People, and everyone else, including the grown-ups, got to make sound effects of - you got it - the wind, weather, people grunting and laughing and singing.

After showing everyone how the little book was made, from conception, to drafts, to illustrations and then set-up and finally printing, the children were invited to create their own little book, and/or do a drawing.

 Here is one drawing done by a student in 2008 at OK Falls Elementary when I read just the story. I was still figuring out how to illustrate the book, and hadn't quite got the story finished. It needed more weather, and so forth. Which it has now.

Here is a drawing from the Launch... by Alyana. Others are now posted on the Day the Wind Changed Children's Art Gallery at

And for more information on the story please visit:

There will be more photos coming.
And on Thursday, April 20, The Day the Wind Changed will be making a grand appearance at Okanagan Falls Elementary School for their Earth Week activities. As principal Lisa McCall says:

"I love The Day the Wind Changed as it represents such an important life skill in todays world and really emphasizes the importance of responding over reacting, which I feel cannot be more relevant for all of us. So thank you Rosemary for this story of hope and optimism!"

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spotlight on One Seed and The Whales' Secret

The Spotlight this month is on the release of my own works, "One Seed" (in English, French, Persian and English-Persian) - - and "The Whales' Secret" (illustrated by Julie Draper) - as FREE downloads.

This comes after repeated nudges these past few years, and after the huge success of the One Seed Video on YouTube that now has over 570,000 viewings. Children around the world have experienced "One Seed" in the home and classroom for everything from biology and seed programs, to character building, and ideas, and even for programs on courage, and how one person (seed) can make a difference in this world. Teachers have sent along over 300 drawings that are now posted on the Kids Art  Gallery -

"One Seed" has also been used for presentations in schools for assemblies and Earth Days, and for Kindergarten graduations. The song has also been shared in peace and environmental awareness demonstrations, in churches and with spiritual and community groups around the world.

In 2002, retired UK school teacher Christine Carruthers prophetically said that One Seed is; "A simple story about life which children and adults the world over will treasure - and the seed will be sown in many a classroom and home..."

That same year, a member of Sound Kamloops in British Columbia, had found a copy of One Seed in the local library and wrote; "This little story... gently reminds us that the courage of one has deep and far-reaching impact."

I give my thanks for having been able to bring this story into reality. I have but been the 'happy medium', putting the story to paper, creating the song, and publishing it. In my gratitude I now pass it on for all to share, on all five continents.

The revised English "One Seed" PDF also includes pages from the educational video about seeds, seeds as ideas, and includes several images from the Kids Art Gallery.

"The Whales' Secret" is a fascinating storybook (metaphor) about life which, besides highlighting beautiful paintings by Julie Draper, also features drawings from children.

Enjoy. In peace and with hope... Rosemary

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ken Lavigne's "Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow"

Ken Lavigne's
Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Sidney, December 7
Campbell River, December 8
Nanaimo, December 9
Victoria, December 10
Comox, December 11
Parksville, December 12
Chemainus, December 19 and 20

Bing Crosby meet Ken Lavigne!
An interview with Ken Lavigne, Tenor and Entertainer
By Rosemary Phillips

The family is gathered together in the sitting-room around a box radio, listening to favourite Christmas songs by Bing Crosby, and swing and boogie-woogie with the Andrew Sisters. World War II wages on, but in this cozy room candles on the Christmas tree flicker, tinsel glitters, treasured glass ornaments sparkle, and the star on top of the tree shines. Paper chains, boughs, holly and mistletoe garland the ceiling, walls and doorways, while stockings hang from the mantle above a crackling fire in anticipation of Christmas Eve and Santa Claus.

Um, wait a minute… this is 2015, the age of huge computerized TV screens, iPods, iTunes, smart phones, electronic everything - including lights, decorations, and even Christmas trees…
Coming back to 2015… as Ken Lavigne, Vancouver Island’s very own romantic crooner explained, “We are touring the Island with a Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow.” It was October, and Ken spoke on the phone from South Carolina where he was on tour. “Everyone down here has a bit of an accent,” he chuckled. “It’s rather ironic. I’m sitting here in 28 degrees in a beach hut and Christmas and my family seem a long way off.”

But, we all know how Ken loves Christmas and the shows he performs throughout Vancouver Island during the festive season. As an all-round entertainer Ken invites you into his life with his luscious, silken honey voice, singing Christmas favourites, ballads, show tunes and classical crossover hits, and tells stories that leave audience member’s roaring with laughter.

“This year I’m doing something completely different. It’s a throw-back to the golden age of live radio, evoking the sounds of radio drama, with special sound-effects, and presenting a Christmas story, putting our own modern spin on it. We will be dressing the stage as an old time radio studio, as best we can. It’s entertainment, sharing stories and the Christmas spirit - which is all about joy.”

The talent: Joining Ken and his band are the harmonious voices of the Company ‘B’ Vocal Trio (“You’d think we were listening to the Andrew Sisters,” said Ken), and the energetic and graceful O’Brian O’Connor School of Irish Dance (“They were part of Symphony by the Sea this year,” he added).

The music: “I pulled from a whole host of genres – from Bing to Bocelli,” Ken explained. “There’s a lot of variety, like Jingles Bells, the Bing Crosby version. It’s a show stopper. I’ll be singing songs I love to perform, such as Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, What Child is This, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Carol of the Bells, Away In A Manger and O Holy Night – plus my regular songs, both serious and spiritual.”

The Tour: Of course there will be Ken’s stories and his casual and natural warm-witted banter with the musicians, fellow performers, and audience. “We start in Sidney (Charlie White Theatre, December 7), go up to Campbell River (Tidemark Theatre, December 8), Nanaimo (Port Theatre, December 9), Victoria (Alix Goolden Performance Hall, December 10), Comox (Comox United Church, December 11), Parksville (Knox United Church, December 12, 3 p.m.)… all over the place, with the grand finale in my home town of Chemainus (Chemainus United Church, December 19 at 7:30 p.m. and December 20 at 2 p.m.).”

Inspiring others: Interview over, it was time for Ken to go for a swim in the ocean. But, before he left for the beach he added, “After this tour I head home then fly off to Saskatchewan for 12 shows, then off to Oregon and California before the Christmas tour of the Island. Meanwhile, there are a lot of floods here in South Carolina. I have already been to one of the communities, devastated by floods, to a school, to give an inspirational talk. Unfortunately most of the kids couldn’t make it because they are still in shelters. I’m a bit timid about being an inspirational speaker but I enjoy doing it in my shows. I hope to inspire others, to follow their dreams.”

Who could deny Ken’s eternal optimism or forget his amazing feat of following his dream to perform at Carnegie Hall. He is totally genuine, blatantly honest, engaging, and full of heart, mischief and laughter. Add his inspiring recordings, such as his latest Christmas album, Comfort and Joy, featuring the kind of music that wraps you with hope, like a warm blanket – and you have Ken Lavigne – pure inspiration!

Come warm yourself with a cup of good cheer, nostalgia, happy memories and the goodwill of Christmas past – when life seemed simpler - while seguing into the present with Ken Lavigne’s optimism, hope, comfort and joy for the future. Advance tickets for Ken Lavigne’s Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow are available at each venue: $38, $18 for students for Sidney, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Victoria; $32, $18 for students for Comox, Parksville and Chemainus ($37 at the door).

 For more information about Ken visit

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Celtic Tenors - Pure Joy

Daryl, Matthew and James
The Celtic Tenors
Friday, November 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm.
Port Theatre, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
Tickets: 250-754-8550
(The first of three Special Concerts presented by the Vancouver Island Symphony - without the orchestra)

Pure joy!
An interview with James Nelson of the Celtic Tenors
By Rosemary Phillips

Fabulous! Wonderful! Excellent! Phenomenal! Refreshing! Uplifting! Funny! Personable! They really connected with the audience! They were so good we didn’t want them to leave! - And so say hundreds of reviewers (on Ticketmaster) for the Celtic Tenors (Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson) and their recent block-buster tour with Celtic Woman through Australia and across the United States.
The phone rang promptly at 9 a.m., right on schedule, and there was James Nelson, founding member of the Celtic Tenors (1995), taking time to casually chat, in his gentle Irish brogue, about the group’s latest adventures and upcoming return to the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Friday, November 20. It was like talking with an old friend, catching up on all the latest news since our interview of 2012. (To read a previous article – titled ‘Perfect Harmony’ - and a wee review - visit: .)
Over the phone the excitement in James’ voice was noticeable. “Tomorrow we sing in Lafayette. We have never performed in Louisiana before. Now we can claim to having sung in 48 states in the US. At the moment I’m sitting looking over the skyline of New Orleans. Last night we went to listen to music. Today we’ll be going to Bourbon Street in the Old French Quarter for lunch, and tonight we are joining members of Celtic Woman at a Halloween Party – a completely alien concept to me. We’ve even got costumes!”
What a year: For the Celtic Tenors, 2015 has been extraordinary, as they travelled the world with their own show, released their latest recording, then joined Celtic Woman on tour. “It seemed like an ideal situation,” continued James. “It’s a bit different for us to be an opening act for others. Years ago we opened for Dionne Warwick and Air Supply, so it’s been a while. We have half an hour and feature some of the songs from our album Timeless, and finish with Nessun Dorma. Then, at the close of the show we join Celtic Woman for The Parting Glass, in seven-part harmony. It’s a rousing end.”
When they (Celtic Tenors and Celtic Woman) sang together at the end of the show, the entire crowd was spellbound. – Ticketmaster Review
Doing what they love – in harmony: Matthew, James and Daryl, all classically trained, Celtic crossover tenors, undoubtedly Ireland’s finest, love to sing – in harmony. And have fun! “We sing the big tenor numbers, but we also do songs from our homeland, and other Celtic countries and a bit of pop music,” said James who does most of the harmony arrangements. “We present a complete mix of everything... and some in our own language.”
New record label: “Last year we signed on with Decca Records Australia through Universal Music. It’s the second signing with a major label in our careers. This year we released Timeless. It’s a very harmony-led album. The first song is Calypso by John Denver. The record company suggested it and we are really glad they did. We love it. It’s such a feel-good song. There are also songs by Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan, songs we grew up with. One favourite is In My Daughter’s Eyes. It’s just the most perfect song about anyone who has a child. We are doing it every night on this tour, and the audience loves it.”
The highlight for me was hearing them (Celtic Tenors) sing “In My Daughter’s Eyes” – beautiful. – Ticketmaster Review
“We also have a new Christmas album. We weren’t singing Christmas songs for the Celtic Woman tour, but the Christmas CDs were the biggest seller - they sold like mad!”
Now with 12 recordings and two PBS specials under their belts and over a million albums in sales (three platinums) these world-class tenors have, over the years, reached No. 1 Chart positions in Ireland and Germany, No. 2 in the UK, the top ten in US Billboard and Canadian charts and most recently charted No. 4 in Australia.
Much more than music: There’s so much more to the Celtic Tenors than concerts. Matthew is raising a family, with three children, and Daryl has now become a parent. Daryl continues his work with the Omagh Community Youth Choir, bringing young people together to promote peace and reconciliation through music. Meanwhile, James carries on with his project in Kenya. “I help raise funds for housing for children orphaned by AIDS. Besides being part of the building team I also teach music and do solo performances with the children. Many of those children are now in university. Two have received their diplomas as chefs, and others as primary school teachers and nurses. It’s lovely to see this with the children we have known. And a few of our tours have been linked to the Mercy Ships project out of Vancouver. It’s so nice to be doing something for others.”
Facing life: In addition, James, like many, has an ailing aged parent. “My dad has Lewy Body dementia. He’s gone through some awful phases. He was so incredibly fit until recently but is deteriorating. It’s so hard.”
Courageously living his truth: “I have always been very private about my life, but once the same-sex marriage referendum was passed in Ireland in May of this year, I was asked to tell my story. I was raised in a different era. I had been living a lie and tried to hide it for decades. The funny thing is that I came out to my close friends and colleagues 25 years ago, yet one or two of my close friends never knew. As a writer (Nelson’s Column for the Sligo Weekender) I already had the story in my head, so I wrote it and had it published. It was like therapy, and a release. I thought I would have a few negative responses - I was ready for that. But there were none. Not one negative. The response from people in letters, in e-mails and on Facebook, has been amazing. When we are on tour, radio stations have often asked, ‘Are you married?’ This year, in Australia, we did an interview with their main gay radio station. It was wonderful to just be myself.”
Returning to Nanaimo: “After a quick trip back home to Ireland we tour Canada and the US in November and December with our own show. And joining us on stage at the Port Theatre will be Colm Henry, our music director and pianist. All of us just love Vancouver Island.”
Presented by the Vancouver Island Symphony, as the first of their Special Concerts (without the orchestra), this will be the Celtic Tenor’s third appearance at the Port Theatre; the first was soon after the theatre opened, and the second in 2012 as a fundraiser for the VIS and to help Nanaimo celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Painting the Irish landscape: Three tenors – one voice – like painting the Irish landscape in song – and evoking the very soul of the Emerald Isle - Matthew, James and Daryl will whisk the audience away into a world of pure joy and perfect harmony in a concert sure to please every palate. I know – I’ve seen them perform - LIVE!
Tickets are available by calling 250-754-8550.
For more information about the Vancouver Island Symphony visit:
For more information on the Celtic Tenors, formal biographies, videos and recordings visit: and visit James Nelson on Facebook.





























Monday, July 20, 2015

SYMPHONY BY THE SEA - 2015 - Vancouver Island Symphony

One, Two, Three – POP!
An interview with Calvin Dyck, director Symphony by the Sea
By Rosemary Phillips

 Violinist Calvin Dyck, also known as the illustrious concertmaster for the Vancouver Island Symphony (VIS), and a man of many hats, is embarking upon yet another big adventure – the programming and directing of the third summertime pops concert - Symphony by the Sea, scheduled for Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo on Saturday, August 8 at 6 p.m. - rain or shine!

Yes, the Hats are Back (Calvin) and the Guy with the Tie (fabulous tenor and storyteller Ken Lavigne) for another great outdoor performance. At the time of this interview Calvin was diligently finalizing the program so he could go away for a short holiday. “This week Heather and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary,” he said, lovingly putting on his family-hat. “Our children, Christine and Andrew, are now almost-adults. We’d like to squeeze in a little vacation before the concert.”

But, back to Calvin in his producer-hat and his focus on the upcoming concert, the music, and talented guests which include Ken Lavigne, pianist child-prodigy Kevin Chen, the Vancouver Island Symphony, O’Connor-O’Brien School of Irish Dance, the return of the Paper Bag 1812 Overture – and surprises! Calvin’s aim is to always make music exciting, entertaining and enjoyable for every age and taste.

Symphony by the Sea:

Ken Lavigne is a real crowd pleaser. He is loved by audiences for his soaring, honeyed tenor voice, his choice of popular songs, his adventures and courage to follow dreams, and his natural, humorous banter. “He will be singing Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, plus favourites like Nessum Dorma, Granada, Funiculì Funiculà,” explained Calvin. “And, because he’s fulfilling another dream and heading to the Sydney Opera House in Australia, he’ll be having the audience join in for a sing-along version of Waltzing Matilda. For added fun, we will be continuing the new tradition of giving away Ken’s tie - and one of my hats.”
Kevin Chen, a ten-year-old short, shy, child-prodigy pianist and composer, has been a solo guest artist with orchestras since he was seven years old. “He will be performing movements from Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (made popular in the 1960’s by the movie Elvira Madigan) and the world premiere performance of his Symphony No. 3. I just got it in the mail the other night. Tom Lee is bringing a grand piano all the way from Victoria specifically for Kevin and this event.”
In 2013, Kevin was named one of CBC’s Top 30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30 - and he was only eight. Added Calvin, “This spring he made his debut with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and this fall Maclean’s Magazine is featuring Kevin for their 110th year edition as they present 110 Canadians, one for each year.”
One, Two, Three – POP! The return of the Paper Bag 1812 Overture - “After last summer’s wonderfully successful performance we are bringing the Paper Bag 1812 Overture back, by popular demand. I’ll be demonstrating the ‘One, Two, Three – POP’ right before intermission, then volunteers will hand out about 3,000 lunch bags throughout the audience so everyone can join in and help make a very satisfying Paper Bag Cannon Boom during the grand finale.”
(You might want to have a practice at home if you have any lunch bags. It’s surprising how loud the pop can be.)
More pops music - “The VIS will be opening with the Light Cavalry Overture, which will be delightful. The O’Connor-O’Brien School of Irish Dance will perform to Lord of the Dance. In addition to Ken’s powerful selection of songs, we will be playing the Mission Impossible theme, Seafarer by Haydn Wood, the Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss, a few surprise pieces, and Lara’s Theme from the movie Dr. Zhivago, in memory of Omar Sharif who passed away on July 10.”
Sponsors - Calvin is forever thankful for the support he receives. “We couldn’t put this concert on without help from our performance sponsors and audience. Windsor Plywood, Columbia Cabinets, Rotary, and the City of Nanaimo have been such huge supporters from the beginning. This year Thrifty Foods is on board with food for sale. This is a first and we are really pleased to have them join us. Of course, we gratefully accept donations from the audience to help defray the costs of the event.”
Calvin Dyck:
Calvin’s first performance with the VIS was for Symphony on the Green on Gabriola Island. “When I was recruited to play it was for a two-year contract. I said ‘no’ and agreed to one-year.” Calvin then paused and chuckled, “This is my 16th season. Where do the years go?”
Symphony on the Green became Symphony in the Harbour and is now Symphony by the Sea. And just as the VIS and its programs have changed and evolved (first under the baton of Marlin Wolfe then Pierre Simard) to become a jewel of a professional regional orchestra, so has Calvin grown into a dynamic musician and director who turns everything he touches into wondrous success.
Besides fulfilling his role as concertmaster with passion and joy, he has been integral in introducing new ventures and concert ideas for the orchestra. “I really enjoy working with Pierre, and, unlike a top-down organization, the VIS, Pierre and executive director Margot Holmes, empower musicians to run with their own ideas,” added Calvin. “They have been very supportive in bringing back the summer pops concert and in giving me the opportunity to conduct the orchestra for these shows. The first year was a bit of an experiment, as I did it mostly myself, assisted by Ken, the guest artists, and musicians who took a reduced fee to help make it a success. There were 1800 in the audience. Last year the crowds came back and brought along friends, and we counted about 4000. This year it’s going to be an even greater success!”
So come on down and pop a paper bag at Symphony By the Sea - Be sure to come early and reserve your patch of grass, enjoy the Sea Walk, kids’ park and beach; venture along the beautiful waterfront and wander into Downtown Nanaimo and exquisite shops. Make it a total family day followed by great entertainment, awesome music, and as always with our sensational Calvin Dyck – hats and SURPRISES!
For more information on Symphony by the Sea phone 250-754-0177 or visit
For more extensive information about Calvin and his many hats, including director of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra and Virtuosi, visit and