Even in the depths of the Great Depression there were people dedicated to bringing nationally and internationally renowned artists to Kelowna. An article appeared in the local paper (probably the Daily Courier as it is now called) on December 17, 1986, describing a group of arts starved individuals who started a concert association in 1934, and names the Canadian Concert Association as the agent which was paid $150 for each service it procured for visiting artists.

The problem of raising sufficient funds to pay for the performers, and sometimes their instruments, resulted in a major campaign in 1935 to sell 300 season tickets at $2 each for three concerts (the break-even point). It was a hard sell, but eventually, with extensive advertising in the Daily Courier, Capital News and CKOV radio, 269 members attended the first concert with Nancy Reed, a pianist, followed by John Goss, "well known English baritone". The group rented the High School auditorium for $25 for three concerts! Unfortunately we have limited information as to what happened to this group or how long they continued. We do, however, have records of concerts being performed in1950 for the Kelowna and District Celebrity Concert Association. The overall management was by W. Colson Leigh Inc., New York, and the Western Tour was organized by Celebrity Concerts (Canada) Ltd., Winnipeg.

From 1957 to 1960, concerts were arranged by The Civic Music Association (presumably a local organization),‚"courtesy of Civic Concert Service Inc. of New York". This evidence has been gleaned from a number of the actual concert programs saved by members over the years.

From 1960 to1962, the Community Concert Association arranged for concerts to be presented through Community Concerts of Canada, 77 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, who were affiliated with Columbia Artist Management, New York.

From 1962 to 1966, the Overture Concert Association, which was organized by George Zukerman of Vancouver, presented concerts sponsored by the local Kelowna group. George is still active in the music business in his role as a professional bassoonist and as a very successful impresario. He has marketed some excellent concerts to the present KCCA and was instrumental in organizing Ben Heppner's B.C. tour in 2007.

In1967, another group of arts lovers stepped forward and initiated a move to consolidate a professional concert series in Kelowna, and to ensure they were presented at an affordable price; many of these people remain as members today. Unfortunately, we have limited records about the activities or names of these members and their leaders, but eventually their dream was fulfilled and the present Kelowna Community Concert Association (KCCA) was formally incorporated as a society in 1985 with Dorothy Boyle as president.

From 1969 to1994, Community Concert Association again presented concerts organized by Community Concerts of Canada in Ottawa, a division of Columbia Artist Management Canada Ltd., who were affiliated with Columbia Artists Management Inc., New York. The concerts were selected from a "menu" circulated each year by the parent company.Some of the concerts they brought included: Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens (1961); Chamber Orchestra of Bucharest (1975); Welsh Choir of Cardiff (1976); Jury's Irish Cabaret (1981); Chanticleer (1985); The Side Street Strutters (1995).

Unfortunately, by 1994 this arrangement was no longer viable when the exchange rate changed so much that the artists, most of whom were American, were unaffordable. Now the selection is made through Canadian and American artist management groups with whom KCCA has an excellent working relationship; the concerts always feature national or international artists with proven performance records and are always sold out.

In the early days (1955), memberships for three concerts were $6 for adults, and our records show that in 1975 the theatre charged us $390 for three concerts. Today it is closer to $2,000 per concert! The membership fees, however, are still a bargain at $60 for five concerts (2010-2011 price).

Some of the more recent concerts have included: The Kim Duo (1996); Tillers Folly (1999); The Gryphon Trio (2000); The Elmer Issler Singers (2004); Tafelmusik (2005); Ben Heppner (2007); Goh Ballet (2007).

Past presidents of the Kelowna Community Concert Association include Marjorie Denroche, Margaret Moisey, Marie Williams, Dorothy Boyle (first president of KCCA), Marnie Sullivan, Herb Sullivan, Marcella Ploegman-Wilbur and Yvonne Topf.

KCCA values its relationship with all the arts organizations in Kelowna but in particular those groups dedicated to the production and presentation of classical music and entertainment. Although it does not share the common need for sponsors and public funding, the organization is supportive of all efforts to expose the public to this kind of entertainment and willingly enters into partnership towards that end. The Okanagan Symphony Society, Ballet Kelowna and Chamber Music Kelowna are examples of groups that share the same values in the pursuit of cultural experiences for the citizens of Kelowna.

The success of this organization is entirely due to its volunteers; no management fees are paid and help is always willingly given. The cost of membership is predicated on selling out the house before engaging the artists, all of whom are professionals who earn their living from their craft. A vigorous renewal campaign takes place each spring which relies heavily on the good will and loyalty of the members. At the time of writing, there are 180 people on a waiting list!

It should also be mentioned that KCCA has an excellent relationship with the Kelowna Community Theatre. In the early days we rented an empty building and had to supply everything ourselves from piano tuning and lighting experts, to front of house volunteers and ticket takers; now the theatre provides these services, but we need less volunteers.

July 2016
Kelowna Community Concert Association - email:  community_concerts@shaw.ca - phone: Betty Skilbeck 250-765-2835 or Brenda Karvonen 250-768-1898
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