Concert to pay tribute to crew of the St. Roch

Seeing the St. Roch in person can strike a history buff with an almost religious dumbfoundment.

This famous schooner was home to a special RCMP captain and crew who together (for vessels are equal to people to those who work them) travelled the Northwest Passage twice and circumnavigated North Americas as well.

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At 104 feet long and 25 feet wide, the St. Roch seems like a hummingbird in a hurricane when you think of the violent water and monstrous ice it confronted on its many history-setting voyages in aid of Canadian sovereignty.

You can see the St. Roch in the Vancouver Maritime Museum and you can now hear the spirit of this small, stalwart, sensational ship contained in the a new composition by Thomas Beckman. No one has ever heard this ode to the great Canadian ship and her many adventures.

The first audience will be tonight when the Prince George Symphony Orchestra sails forth on its maiden voyage.

"The piece celebrates the 90th anniversary of the launching of the St. Roch," said PGSO general manager Teresa Saunders.

"The piece is incredible and will be presented with Jude Neale, renowned Canadian poet who will recite poetry she wrote in concert with the composition.

"The Vancouver Maritime Museum also created a video and slide presentation to be shown while the piece is being played.

"PG's own Nove Voce choir will be a part of the second movement of the piece as well.

"The presentation of this new composition was made possible by a grant from the Fraser-Fort George Regional District.

"Our own Exploration Place has also created a slide presentation on activity on the waterways of Prince George in the same era that the St. Roch was working further west and north. This presentation will be shown at intermission.

"It's been a true collaborative effort to bring this project to fruition. We're very excited to be able to hear it (tonight)."

The PGSO's conductor, Michael Hall, said Beckman approached him and Saunders more than a year ago asking if there would be a possibility of the orchestra performing the piece he had been working on without any set destination in mind. Beckman is a Vancouver composer and musician but frequently works in Prince George with the city's symphony.

Hall said the chance to be part of a world debut was too exciting to pass up.

"He provided me with a score and an audio file that gives an approximation of how it will sound, but it is only an approximation," Hall explained.

"You prepare for a world premiere in a lot of the same ways you always do, but without the templates of a piece that's been done before. This has never been heard by another orchestra or audience. There is no model for reference."

Does that impose any trepidation on the rehearsal process to be the absolute first?

"No trepidation. Quite the opposite," Hall said.

"We are in fact really excited that Thomas thought of us and considered us a good fit. There could be trepidation, I suppose, if you don't know the composer but we had a strong relationship already so we knew it would be a wonderful experience."

Beckman has written previous works for the Borealis String Quartet, the Vancouver Symphony orchestra, the Postmodern Camerata and the Vancouver Youth Choir, among others.

Hall built an entire water theme around knowing the PGSO was debuting the

St. Roch Suite.

Rounding out this unique presentation are three other sea-themed pieces: Selections From Water Music by Handel, Moldau by Smetana, and Pelleas & Melisande by Faure.

There will also be the quick whiz of the Tritsch Tratsch Polka with special guest conductor Cindy Marcotte.

The concert will be held at the Prince George Playhouse tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale online at the Central Interior Tickets website.

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