Timbre! Choir conductor Pat Miller

Alberni orchestra and chorus society loses $20,000 gaming grant

The Port Alberni Orchestra and Chorus Society has lost its gaming funding while its rent has doubled in a venue half the former size.

The Port Alberni Orchestra and Chorus Society has lost its gaming funding this year, to the tune of $20,000.

And the cuts come at a time when costs to rent a new venue have almost doubled, while the number of seats has been cut in half to 500.

The orchestra and chorus society comprises Timbre! Choir, Harbour City Big Band, Alberni Valley Community Band and Phil’s Harmonics String Orchestra. The society also sponsors a youth recital each month, society treasurer Barry Miller said.

News of the gaming fund cuts wasn’t a complete surprise, although losing all of it was, he said. Three years ago when arts funding was cut from gaming grants there was such an uproar that funding was reinstated for many groups. The orchestra and chorus society had a three-year financial plan that was threatened until funds were reinstated, Miller said.

When he reapplied for the grant this year he was surprised not to receive any.

The cuts are affecting all of the groups, Miller said. Timbre! cut back the number of concerts it will perform this season to two from three (one at Christmas and one in the spring). The choir also rehearses at Trinity Anglican and Lutheran Church, where they used to rehearse in the old Alberni District Secondary School Auditorium.

Timbre! performed two Christmas shows last winter at the Capitol Theatre, but has only planned one this year due to the higher cost of renting the new ADSS Theatre, Miller said.

The choir used to rent the old ADSS Auditorium, now demolished, for approximately $350. The new theatre costs $750 per night and choir members must pay for janitorial service.

The higher costs are unfortunate given the deep funding cuts, Miller said.

“So many of us worked to get that theatre there. We feel it’s a bit on the high side” to rent, he added.

The orchestra and chorus society has a deal with the high school to store their concert grand piano, and the school is permitted to use it. There is also an acoustical panel available at the theatre that belongs to the society.

Miller said the Christmas concert, A Christmas Celebration, planned for Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2:30 p.m. has become extremely important for the choir.

Tickets have gone up in price slightly, to $15 from $12; the choir has lowered the price for youth to $5 in an effort to attract more young people to the concerts.

Despite this year’s challenges, Timbre! is eager to perform in the new theatre, Miller said.

They hope to rehearse once to get a feel for the acoustics, then run a dress rehearsal right before the performance.

“We’d like to get a feel for the building.”

Phil’s Harmonics String Orchestra is already feeling the effects of the gaming cuts, organizer Bonnie Wallbank said.

Phil’s Harmonics has been part of the orchestra and chorus society since 2001 and usually uses gaming funds to pay for an accompanist and students who come in and assist with performances.

“We don’t make a lot of money. There’s always music to buy,” Wallbank said.

Phil’s Harmonics is fortunate that Fir Park Village allows them to rehearse in the seniors’ facility free of charge at the moment, Wallbank said. The orchestra regularly performs at Fir Park, Echo Village and Heritage Place for free. They usually perform at Rollin Art Centre’s Teas on the Terrace in the summer for a small honorarium, and they hire themselves out to private events like weddings, Wallbank said.

Phil’s Harmonics will team up with Barkley Sounds Community Choir for a Christmas concert at the ADSS Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 1 (2:30 p.m.). They will share the $750 rental cost.

Phil’s Harmonics is also looking for a pianist. Please call Wallbank at 250-724-2998 for more information.

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