Tag Archives: PGSO

Concert Review: Nadina Mackie Jackson and the PGSO

4 Nov

I had the incredible privilege and pleasure of attending last night’s Prince George Symphony Orchestra (PGSO) concert, featuring a homecoming appearance by bassoon Master Nadina Mackie Jackson.

I am a pretty big fan of the PGSO and have attended more than my fair share of exquisite performances.  Each and every time, despite my keen knowledge of their incredible talent and professionalism, these musicians blow me away.  Last night’s event was no exception.

With recently inducted conductor Kevin Zakresky at the helm for his inaugural main stage performance, the PGSO wowed its fans.  We were warmed up with a selection from Handel’s The Water Music, which was brilliantly introduced by Zakresky, who set the stage perfectly with a bit of scandalous Handel history and a lively description of the scene we could have expected had we joined King George I for his concert on the Thames.  Once the King’s barge movement had ended, Zakresky had the fortune of introducing our bassoonist for the evening, the gal with the blue hair, Nadina Mackie Jackson.  With this introduction, my world changed.

Allow me to deviate from the music for a moment.  Before she began playing, Nadina borrowed the mic from Zakresky and humbly thanked the PGSO and her audience for the opportunity to play in her home town again.  She reminded us of the incredible talent housed in Prince George and she, and her prodigious tale of hard work and consequential monstrous personal accomplishments, inspired the heck out of me.

You need only to gaze upon Nadina a moment to know that you’re in for quite a show.  Sporting a shock of Smurf-blue hair, a breathtaking and outstandingly out of the ordinary pair of Canadian-designed gowns and an eye twinkle I could spot from the twenty-first row back, Nadina isn’t exactly what first comes to mind when you think of symphony soloist.  As soon as she puts lip to reed though, all preconceptions ebb.  Nadina Mackie Jackson is a testament not only to Prince George, British Columbia, Canada or the world, she is a testament to the spirit and soul of music.  Through her Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (Hummel) and Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in C minor RV 480 (Vivaldi), Nadina so clearly demonstrates the beautiful, joyful passion with which she plays.  I know technical musicians and I know musical musicians; Nadina Mackie Jackson is a perfect marriage between a keen technical understanding and a truly musical, creative and artistic soul.

To conclude this show, Nadina bowed gracefully and allowed the PGSO the opportunity to continue to do what it does best.  Zakresky made a final introduction, just as lively as the last, nudging his audience into a parlour filled with Viennese aristocrats, before luring his symphony into Mozart’s Symphony #29 in A major.  Spell-binding.  The Prince George audience was held in thrall until allowed to burst into applause to show amazed appreciation for the evening’s spectacle.

To see Nadina Mackie Jackson accompanied by our remarkable PGSO was a special treat.  Thank you, and congratulations, to the PGSO, Kevin Zakresky and Nadina Mackie Jackson for the outstanding evening and for continuing to entertain and inspire through the art of music.



Books & Company

1 Dec

(Image © Michael Rawluk.  Used with permission.)

“This is my favourite place!”

I’ve heard that so many times from various visitors in the past three (almost four) years.  I usually respond to my chipper customer with a polite “thank you!” and a conspiratorial smile.

I know how they feel.

In a world where snow reigns for at least five months of every twelve, everyone needs a little sunshine.  A place to escape the monotony of the everyday grind.  A sanctuary.

An oasis.

In Prince George, Books & Company is that oasis.  A rift in the usual.  A refuge from paperwork, essays and contemporary social constraints.  It’s a place where you’re encouraged to be yourself – whether yourself wears jeans and a t-shirt or chain mail – without question or complaint.

Part of the reason Books & Co. is as successful as it is in creating this environment is that it is as it was since its beginning.  It’s true, it has moved around a bit, but it’s never changed hands and the vision remains: a safe haven and community unto itself.  Truly, selling books, coffee and really, really tasty scones almost seems an afterthought, doesn’t it?  A way to ensure that this retreat is self-sustaining and possesses all of the comforts required for a visit.

Better, perhaps, than being a personal haven is that sense of community.  On Tuesday nights Café Voltaire hosts the Sketch Monkeys; one Wednesday of every month is Café Scientifique; on Thursday nights an ESL study group, a Spanish club and the Chess Knights meet; and on Friday nights the Café Voltaire stage is open to a free concert – sometimes a local band plays, sometimes a touring group charitable enough to stop in, and if you’re really lucky you’ll catch an open mic night and see what Prince George REALLY has to offer!  Beyond that, you’ll find author book launches and signings where you can feel free to grab a fantastic cup of coffee and sit down with the lady or gent who has penned your new favourite book and have a heart-to-heart with them, sharing your love of their craft.  Sometimes, if you’re in the right place at exactly the right time you’ll be fortunate enough to catch a travelling stage troupe who will give an impromptu showing of their latest play using the Books & Co. register-island as their stage!  Indeed, there is never a dull moment at Books & Co..

ArtSpace, too, adds to this sense of community.  This cultural centre has played host to some of Canada’s and Prince George’s most brilliant musicians.  It has held everything from heavy-metal concerts, pole-dancing performances, burlesque shows, Dr. Sketchy Anti-Art School events, Cold Snap festival shows to a weekly church service every Sunday morning.  There is always art on the walls and it is almost always local to Prince George and the region, whether it be a one artist displaying their talent, or a class from the Emily Carr program at UNBC.  The breadth of this studio is impressive and, like the bookstore and coffee bar below, never questions who walks through the door, or requires them to explain themselves.

Prince George is a pretty lucky little City.  We have the Theatre North West, a Symphony Orchestra, Excalibur’s musical theatre, Judy Russell’s dance studio, BCHL and WHL hockey teams, and the best damned independent bookstore in Northern BC!

(And let’s face it folks, where are you going to find a more amazing staff to help you find your next favourite book?)

Valdy – VLT