Vintage Virtuosos 2011 & 2012 – A Recap.

“Vintage Virtuosos was a celebration of being senior”, says London Concert Band Conductor Robert Kennedy. This special concert showcasing the talent of London seniors happened twice – in May 2011 and again in May 2012. It was the highlight of the London Concert Band season those years, and better than other seniors’ competitions, in that the four winners got to perform with a concert band for considerable cash.

After ten years on the podium of the London Concert Band, Robert Kennedy was looking for a new challenge, and the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program provided the inspiration. In 2011, the band received $7100 in the Community Participation and Leadership category. With help from the City of London and the London Arts Council, the idea was launched.

The Vintage Virtuosos Committee scoured the community for talented senior amateur musicians– churches, libraries, ethnic groups, retirement homes, paid media ads, radio, TV, LCB website, and most importantly of all, our personal contacts. In 2011, there were 15 applications, accompanied by a CD or DVD, and in 2012, there were 20. These were reviewed by the Conductor and short-listed for auditions in January. From these, four grand winners were chosen in four categories: over 60, over 70, over 80 and “unusual”. In 2011, the finalists were Alastair McGhee (vocalist), Carol Setterington (vocalist), Norm Giddings (vocalist), and “In a Heartbeat” (women’s quartet). In 2012 the finalists were Charles Wilde (vocalist), Margitta Ossenkopp (oboist), George Quinn (vocalist) and Marcel Richard (button accordionist).

Vintage Virtuosos served to raise the profile of London Concert Band considerably in the Community. A massive amount of outreach was done on behalf of the band. Besides paid media ads, we had 10 articles published in the two years by James Reaney (LFP) and Chris Montanini (The Londoner). In May of each year, before the final concert, the band and the finalists took the show on the road to local retirement homes for their enjoyment. The Vintage Virtuosos Concert itself was at the Aeolian Hall both times, and played to a packed audience. Each of the finalists had brought along a cheering section. The excitement was palpable as the finalists performed, the adjudicators conferred, and the winner was declared. In 2011, it was Alastair McGhee and in 2012, it was Charles Wilde who walked off with the grand prize. Each year, $2200 was divided among the four finalists.

As band members, we were very proud of what we had accomplished – community outreach, new musical friends, a professional selection process, personal financial contributions, spreading the word to family and friends, the excitement of performance day, and our pride in our finalists and grand winners. With Vintage Virtuosos, London Concert Band firmly established its place on the London musical map.

Funding was tougher in 2012. The application to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for two years of funding failed. A Fundraising Committee used all their connections to acquire sponsorship from London Life, RBC Foundation, Lerners, Tippet-Richardson ,the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Local 6005. Band members also made contributions. Because of these funding obstacles, the LCB Board decided to discontinue Vintage Virtuosos at the present time.

There have been calls from seniors, enquiring if the program might run again, wondering if they might have another chance to perform with London Concert Band. Vintage Virtuosos still echoes in the community. As our Conductor says, “We all had a great time, and a lot of fun along the way.”

Barbara Belbeck, Vintage Virtuosos Chair 2011
Mary Lois Cooper – Vintage Virtuosos Chair 2012